Accidents and injuries are the leading cause of death in the United States for patients under 40. When injuries are severe enough to require emergency surgery, patients may be treated by a trauma surgeon, a doctor who specializes in providing surgical help to save critically injured patients.
Due to the nature of their work, trauma surgeons are most often located in emergency departments of hospitals. The specialty is closely related to emergency medicine and acute care surgery, but trauma surgery specifically focuses on surgical care needed to repair sudden and unexpected physical injuries.
Some examples of the kinds of injuries and procedures that a trauma surgeon might see include:
Blunt trauma, such as a car accident or fall
Penetrating trauma, such as a gunshot, stab wound, or deep cut
Crushing trauma, such as some work or machinery accidents
Tracheostomy, an emergency surgery to open a blocked airway
Trauma surgeons work with patients of all ages, from babies to senior citizens, that arrive in the emergency room. They do the critical work of resuscitating and stabilizing patients who may be near death. They are able to make quick decisions about what care is needed and the best way to provide it. By providing urgent expertise and surgery in an emergency, they save lives.
Emergency medicine, as the name implies, refers to the treatment of patients whose illness or injury is an emergency. This usually means the illness or injury is serious and was unexpected. Emergency medicine includes disaster response teams, ambulance personnel such as EMTs and paramedics, and doctors or nurses at an ER.
Emergency medicine specialists are trained to deal with all kinds of different conditions affecting all kinds of different people, as just about any medical condition can become an emergency. An emergency medicine physician might treat patients with:
Trauma from a car accident
In a busy emergency room, staff could even potentially see all of these problems in the same day. Emergency medicine specialists work in a fast-paced environment, treating serious health issues. They must make decisions quickly. Because emergency care is the only point of access to health care for many Americans, emergency medicine physicians must also provide screening and referrals as well as treatment.
There are over 120 million ER visits in the United States every year. Emergency medicine is a very important part of the health care system, and the providers routinely save lives.
Psychotherapy is commonly referred to as talk therapy or simply therapy. Trained therapists help and guide patients as they talk through issues in their life and problem-solve ways to make healthy changes.
The use of therapy is extremely common, with millions of people going through therapy each year in the United States alone. It can be useful for patients who want to learn coping skills when they are facing difficult issues or need to heal from past trauma. Therapy can also be a support tool when patients are facing stressful periods in their life. Essentially, therapy is helpful any time life events require more mental or emotional resources than a patient currently has. Change is a major theme of therapy, offering a supportive environment for patients to make changes to their life or themselves so that past problems stop recurring in the future.
There are several different types of psychotherapy, with the most common being cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. This type of therapy focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is a form of CBT that encourages acceptance and validation as well as change. Interpersonal therapy focuses on relationships and communication as a pathway to feeling better. Psychoanalysis, an older form of therapy invented by Sigmund Freud, teaches that all problems stem from the unconscious.
Although many people see therapists by themselves, not all psychotherapy is one-on-one. For example, in family therapy, the therapist treats a family as a unit. Patients can also participate in group therapy, where they meet as a group to work on issues.
Psychotherapy is a safe, powerful healing tool that can help patients lead happier and healthier lives. However, therapy is a joint effort between the patient and the therapist. Both need to work together in order for therapy to be effective.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who works at the place where the brain and body meet. Psychiatrists understand mental wellness and illness, as well as how illness in the physical body can cause problems within the mind.
A patient may see a psychiatrist for a variety of different problems. Some problems come on suddenly and are treated over a matter of days or weeks. Others are long-term issues that can last a lifetime. Feelings of sadness or hopelessness, hallucinations, panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, hearing voices, and compulsive behaviors are all examples of the kinds of issues treated by psychiatrists.
Because psychiatrists are medical doctors, they can order laboratory blood work and prescribe medication. Some mental health problems are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and can be treated with medicine that gets the chemical levels back to where they should be. Occasionally a physical health problem such as hypothyroidism (where hormone levels in the body affect metabolism) or a brain tumor can be the cause of problematic thoughts and feelings. In these cases, psychiatrists know that the underlying physical problem needs to be treated in order to correct the mental health disorder; if necessary, they will refer the patient to an appropriate doctor.
Like psychologists and counselors, psychiatrists can use talk therapy with their patients. However, psychiatrists have access to additional resources and treatments, such as prescription medication, electroconvulsive therapy (where electric shocks are applied to the brain) to treat severe depression, or hospitalization for patients in crisis. Psychiatrists are also trained in the way substance abuse affects both the physical and mental health of patients and can treat addiction using medication and therapy.
Psychologists are not medical doctors, but they are important workers in the mental health field. A psychologist studies the way people feel and think, as well as how thoughts and feelings change the way people act. When psychologists work with patients directly to help them feel better, they practice clinical psychology. Clinical psychologists diagnose mental health disorders and provide treatment in the form of therapy.
A clinical psychologist might work with individuals, families, groups, or organizations. They may see people who are struggling to work through difficult circumstances, trying to overcome bad habits or patterns in their lives, recovering from a brain injury, or suffering from mental illness such as depression.
Clinical psychologists are skilled assessors. Through talking to their patients they can: (1) identify which thoughts or feelings are causing the problems in their patient's life, (2) help their patient acknowledge what emotional strengths they bring to face those problems, and (3) make plans for treatment.
Treatment varies widely depending on the patient's problems and the psychologist's areas of expertise. There hundreds of recognized modes of therapy; in addition, a patient may need to see a psychiatrist (medical doctor) for medication treatment. Whichever therapies a psychologist uses, the goal is to help patients see areas in their life where their thoughts or feelings are holding them back and causing distress. Through therapy, psychologists can encourage their patients to develop new ways to adapt so that they can lead happier lives.
Counseling is a type of professional guidance for handling problems in life. There are many types of counselors, and they serve an incredibly wide variety of people with all kinds of different needs. There are general counselors, marriage and family counselors, school and student counselors, career and vocational counselors, religious counselors, and gerontological counselors specifically for the elderly.
In all cases, counseling works when the client and the counselor talk to each other and develop a trusting relationship. The counselor listens respectfully to the client’s problems. Then the two together work on identifying goals, increasing coping skills to overcome any troubles, and improving useful skills such as communication. The goals of counseling will be different for each person, but generally they include an increased sense of well being, decreased distress and anxiety, resolved crisis, and increased ability and function in daily life.