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The Emergency Medicine Workforce: Profile and Projections

  • Mark Reiter
    Affiliations
    University of Tennessee-Murfreesboro, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

    American Academy of Emergency Medicine, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    Emergency Excellence, LLC, Brentwood, Tennessee
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  • Leana S. Wen
    Affiliations
    Patient-Centered Care Research, The George Washington University, Washington, DC

    Department of Emergency Medicine, The George Washington University, Washington, DC
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  • Brady W. Allen
    Correspondence
    Reprint Address: Brady W. Allen, md, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Nashville Campus, 1700 Medical Center Parkway, Murfreesboro, TN 37129
    Affiliations
    University of Tennessee-Murfreesboro, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

    Physicians' Urgent Care, PLLC, Brentwood, Tennessee
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      Abstract

      Background

      The landscape of the emergency medicine workforce has changed dramatically over the last few decades. The growth in emergency medicine residency programs has significantly increased the number of emergency medicine specialists now staffing emergency departments (EDs) throughout the country. Despite this increase in available providers, rising patient volumes, an aging population, ED overcrowding and inefficiency, increased regulation, and other factors have resulted in the continued need for additional emergency physicians.

      Objectives

      To review current available data on patient volumes and characteristics, the overall physician workforce, the current emergency physician workforce, the impact of physician extenders and scribes on the practice of emergency medicine, and project emergency physician staffing needs into the future.

      Discussion and Projections

      We project that within the next 5 to 10 years, there will be enough board-certified or -eligible emergency physicians to provide care to all patients in the U.S. EDs. However, low-volume rural EDs will continue to have difficulty attracting emergency medicine specialists without significant incentives.

      Conclusions

      There remains a shortage of board-certified emergency physicians, but it is decreasing every year. The use of physicians from other specialties to staff EDs has long been based on the theory that there is a long-standing shortage of available American Board of Emergency Medicine/American Osteopathic Board of Emergency Medicine physicians, both now and in the future. Our investigation shows that this is not supported by current data. Although there will always be regional and rural physician shortages, these are mirrored by all other specialties and are even more pressing in primary care.

      Keywords

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