Who will be looking after me at the emergency department?

The emergency department is staffed by a large group of healthcare professionals.

The multiprofessional team looking after patients at the emergency department include doctors, nurses, paramedics, practical nurses and department secretaries. Other members include pharmacists, sterile services technicians, domestic service staff and porters. In addition to medical staff, emergency departments are also staffed with security guards.

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Emergency departments often have doctors of different specialities on duty. Doctors identify and diagnose the patient’s medical condition and decide on the care. To arrive at a correct diagnosis, the doctor will ask questions and observe and examine the patient. Emergency department doctors’ duties are a great responsibility and require high-level professional competencies, communication skills, confidentiality and stress management skills. The doctors use some of the time on administrative tasks such as composing treatment records and issuing referrals.

In Finland, doctors graduate from the university with a Licentiate degree in medicine (a post-graduate degree). Medical graduates can also treat patients as junior doctors.

Doctors are granted professional practising rights following the completion of the required degree, after which they may practice independently in medicine.


Most of the nursing staff in the emergency department are registered nurses. Some of the nurses are specialised in emergency care. Depending on the emergency department, their nursing staff also includes public health nurses, midwives, surgical and anaesthetic nurses, psychiatric nurses, paramedics and intensive care nurses.

The nurses’ duties at the emergency department include triage, patient care and administration of medicines and training and supervision.

Some of the nurses act as charge nurses, which means they are responsible for the emergency department operations during the evening and at night and serve as consulting nurses during their shift.

In Finland, nurses graduate from universities of applied sciences (Bachelor’s degree). Some nurses hold a Master’s degree in nursing.

Registered nurses are licenced professionals.

Paramedics and practical nurses

Paramedics and practical nurses may have specific designated duties in the emergency department, such as the application of plaster. Some of them have been trained on the job to administer medicines. They participate in acute nursing alongside nurses.

Practical nurses graduate with a vocational upper secondary qualification or competence-based qualification.

Practical nurse is a protected occupational title.

Department Secretary

At most emergency departments, the healthcare personnel are supported by department secretaries. Their role is to have extensive knowledge of legislation and to manage the patient documentation and healthcare service systems. Their duties include data management, patient registrations, phone services and handling patients’ documents and referrals, and the management of office supplies. The job description may be highly varied, depending on the division of roles at a specific emergency department.

Department secretaries are trained in social and healthcare services or hold some other qualification, for example in business administration.

Nurse Manager and Assistant Nurse Manager

Nurse Manager and Assistant Nurse Manager are the line managers for the nursing staff at the emergency department. The Nurse Manager is the administrative head of a department responsible for the smooth running of the operations, adequate and qualified staffing to facilitate safe, high-quality care.

The Assistant Nurse Manager is typically responsible for the coordination of the daily operations of the emergency department. Together, the Nurse Manager and Assistant Nurse Manager are in charge of developing the unit and the welfare of their staff.

In addition to nursing qualifications, Nurse Managers and Assistant Nurse Managers usually have administrative training. They may hold a Master’s degree in a relevant field or have completed other management training.


Some of the larger emergency departments have pharmacists’ services. The duties of a pharmacist vary. In some emergency departments, they manage the stocks and control the medicine storerooms and cabinets. Sometimes they may even meet the patients to ensure the correct medication for home care.

Pharmacists have a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy.

They are licenced professionals.

Domestic service staff/healthcare assistant

Domestic service staff keep the emergency department clean and, depending on the unit, may also distribute meals. Their role includes various housekeeping duties such as cleaning the facilities, hospital textile maintenance and medical instrument maintenance. Duties vary depending on the place of work.

Domestic service staff usually hold a vocational qualification in industrial cleaning. The qualification is not a healthcare qualification.


Some emergency departments have porters to take patients to examinations and wards. The porter takes care of the patient during transfer and assists them as necessary when attending examinations and when arriving and leaving a ward.

Porters are not required to hold a healthcare qualification.

Security guard

Some emergency departments are staffed with security guards. Their role is to ensure the safety of the staff, patients and others present in the building and to guard the property. Their important role is to ensure that the care personnel can do their jobs safely and without disturbances.

Hospital security guards usually have a security guard qualification.

Updated  1.5.2021