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Less than 40 years ago, when you went to the Emergency Room at your local hospital, you had no idea what kind of doctor you’d see. Staff physicians in the hospital took shifts in the ER, so you might have an obstetrician casting your broken wrist or a psychiatrist treating your heart palpitations. Beginning in 1979, Emergency Medicine was recognized by the American Board of Specialties. Over the next decades, EM specialists became thoroughly integrated into the continuum of care, so that today, patients coming into to the ER can expect treatment and a proper diagnosis from the right physician. 

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Today’s doctors are trained to keep patients alive, but not always to prepare them for death. From developing a care plan to delivering the news to supporting their patients’ medical, emotional and spiritual needs, most doctors are uncomfortable starting the conversations required to develop the most appropriate end-of-life care plans.

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