The 6 Most Dangerous Healthcare Careers

Some medical jobs entail a great deal of risk to healthcare professionals. Many healthcare workers put their own safety, and even their own lives, on the line each day to help treat and care for others. While many healthcare careers entail some level of potential risk such as needle sticks or potential infection, this list explores the most dangerous, even deadly, of all medical jobs.

Emergency Medical Services and Emergency Room Professionals

EMT transporting car accident victim

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First responders such as EMTs and paramedics never know what they may find when they get to the scene of an accident or incident. They may have to face criminals, natural disasters, or other precarious circumstances once they get to the scene of a medical emergency.

Additionally, the doctors, nurses, and staff who work in the emergency department of a hospital also face risks. The ER is open to anyone who comes in, including violent criminals, drug addicts, and any number of situations. Because many patients have not yet been stabilized, and medical treatment transpires at a more rapid pace, accidents are more likely to happen in this fast-paced setting than some other medical treatment settings.

Military Medical Careers

Most military health professionals are housed safely in a hospital or a secured base far away from any dangerous combat. However, occasionally, depending on the particular assignment and the country's current involvement in any global conflicts, a military medical career could, unfortunately, put you in harm's way.

Flight Surgeon or Flight Nurse

According to the Washington Post, "working on a medical helicopter is the second most dangerous job in America," (second only to commercial fishing.) Since 1980, when officials began tracking these crashes, hundreds of people have perished in medical helicopter crashes.

However, since 2009, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a hearing, adopted new, improved safety rules, and has been working on improving the safety and effectiveness of medical helicopters. While there have still been some crashes each year since then, the numbers are no longer increasing as they had through 2008.

Correctional Medicine

Medical professionals who work in corrections, such as prisons, penitentiaries, and other correctional facilities, also put their lives at risk. One reader, who works in correctional medicine, shared his experience in what he refers to as a "hazardous medical setting" of correctional medicine: "Correctional health professionals...face a possibility of workplace violence every day. We face violence among offenders, rioting, and communicable disease," wrote "Walter," a reader who works in correctional medicine.

Corrections facilities employ a variety of health professionals, including nurses, mid-level providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, physicians, and dentists.

Nurses - ER and Inpatient Psychiatric Care

Those physicians and nurses who manage patients who are dealing with trauma or severe mental illness are also in a volatile situation. Again, most are protected by secure facilities and various safety measures to prevent any possible outbreaks, but they can still occur on a limited basis.

In fact, one recent list of "6 Surprisingly Dangerous Jobs" by placed nurses (of any type) on the list, due to their close contact with so many patients, their illnesses, and possible needle sticks or other mishaps.


This career may not be one of the most dangerous to date, but the rise in prescription drug dependency in the U.S. may cause an increase in incidents like the ones in Seattle, Oklahoma City, and others. A 2011 CNN report on drugstore robberies explores this concerning, growing trend.