The European Society for Emergency Medicine

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Within the realm of Emergency Medicine, patients present with symptoms & signs. "Symptoms" refer here to subjective complaints such as chest pain. "Signs" refer here to objective physical abnormalities (e.g., decreased level of consciousness, fever), abnormal laboratory results (e.g., hyperkalaemia) or other abnormal test findings (e.g., ST-elevation on the EKG). "Situations" refer here to circumstances which are complex and whereby patients are deemed to require urgent assessment and benefit from team approach, e.g., in the settings of cardiac arrest, or following major trauma.

Emergency physicians are not expected to be able to list an exhaustive differential diagnosis for each symptom, sign or situation. Rather, the emphasis is on mastering approaches that allow for estimating the likelihoods of time-sensitive conditions using focused bedside information such as the history, the physical examination and point-of-care tests such as the electrocardiogram, certain blood tests, point-of-care ultrasound and urinalysis. 

Emergency physicians should:
• Estimate the severity of the patients' condition
• Initiate immediate therapy if needed
• estimate the likelihoods of potential time-sensitive conditions, i.e. conditions where timing on therapy impacts on morbidity and mortality
• select and interpret relevant investigations


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