Archive for December 18th, 2008

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Writing in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine, lead author Dr. Carlos A. Camargo of Massachusetts General Hospital estimates that it would take until 2019 to find enough fully-trained, board-certified emergency physicians to work in the 4,828 emergency departments that are open 24 hours a day. And that best-case projection assumes that no current doctors who meet those qualifications die or leave their jobs.

The Institute of Medicine said in 2006 that ERs should ideally be staffed by doctors who had spent their residency training in emergency medicine and had later passed tests to become certified in the specialty. But only about 55 percent of doctors working in ERs meet that standard, Camargo and his co-authors write.

Does any other field have such a low percentage of physicians that are not board certified in the field of practice?  I know some of this has to do with the recent certification process, but that is pushing nearly 20 years now, and grandfathering options were available for those who were practicing before that.  What makes this worse, these calculations were done under the rosiest of scenarios where the doctors do not burn out and leave the field… good luck with that.

I’m not sure there is an easy solution to this problem.  I don’t think anyone is (or shoud be) suggesting we lower the standard of being qualified as an emergency medicine specialist.  There are already over 1000 residents trained a year, and at some point you run out of quality facilities to train residents (getting the right amount of volume with broad, well-rounded training isn’t possible just anywhere).  Decreasing the meteoric rise in ER visits in the past decade will also help a whole lot.

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