Paediatric emergency medicine - sub-specialty

This is a sub-specialty of both paediatrics and emergency medicine and is concerned with providing highly specialised acute health care to children of all ages. Find out about this sub-specialty and its curriculum.

What makes a paediatric emergency medicine (PEM) doctor?

A paediatric emergency physician is a doctor who specialises in the initial management of children presenting with a wide range of undifferentiated conditions. They need to make pragmatic and rapid decisions using a wide breadth of knowledge across a vast range of paediatric presentations.

They are competent dealing with minor and major trauma and illness. They need to be adaptable in order to be able to switch immediately from managing minor conditions to leading the resuscitation of children.

Paediatric emergency physicians must also acquire a wide range of non-clinical skills and abilities, internally and externally. These may revolve around process management in the emergency department, the hospital as a whole, or the wider community and interfaces of care. They must also learn to take care of themselves and the emergency team, developing skills to counteract the high-pressure nature of the work through communication, debriefing, and resilience training.

They gain their skills by working in busy paediatric emergency departments (PEDs), paediatric intensive care units (PICUs), and alongside colleagues from other specialties including emergency medicine, paediatrics, general paediatric surgery and other surgical specialties, mastering both the diagnostic challenge and the practical skills required to treat this diverse population. As consultants, paediatric emergency physicians may work in designated PEDs or alongside adult colleagues, taking on the care of children in mixed EDs.

Training in this sub-specialty

Paediatricians in the UK start their training in general paediatrics, and at the final level of training (level 3), some choose to train in a paediatric sub-specialty, such as paediatric emergency medicine.

The RCPCH Progress curriculum provides a framework for paediatric training, and outlines the Learning Outcomes and Key Capabilities required at each stage before attaining the Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT).

The syllabi support the curriculum with further guidance on how the Learning Outcomes can be achieved and demonstrated. Those in sub-specialty training use two syllabi, which are part of the RCPCH Progress curriculum:

  • Level 3 generic syllabus (for all level 3 trainees)
  • Sub-specialty syllabus.

You can download all syllabus documents below