Emergency Physician Shortages Worsening in Rural America

Emergency Physician Shortages Worsening in Rural America

The number of emergency medicine physicians in the United States has increased in the past few years. But for rural areas, the reality is quite the opposite. Rural communities have experienced ER staffing shortages for several years now, and the problem is expected to worsen as a generation of rural doctors retires. According to a recent study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, of the 48,835 clinically active emergency physicians in the United States, 92% (44,908) practice in urban areas with just 8% (3,927) practicing in rural communities. That’s down from 10% in 2008.

The study further found that the median age for urban emergency physicians is 50 years old, while the median age in large rural communities is 58 years old, and 62 years old in smaller rural communities. Unfortunately, without a viable workforce solution, staffing shortages in rural ERs may continue as the analysis also shows that 96% of the emergency medicine residency or fellowship graduates within the past four years practice in more urban areas.

“Demand for emergency care in rural areas will remain high while emergency physician shortages in these communities continues to pose significant challenges for health systems and patients,” said Christopher Bennett, MD, MA, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and lead study author.

To fill the workplace gap, rural emergency departments have long relied on the services of primary care trained doctors. One such program that gives cause for optimism is the Monroe Clinic Emergency Medicine Fellowship in Monroe, WI, which is recognized by the American Academy of Emergency Physicians (AAEP). Completion of an AAEP-approved program enables graduate fellows to apply for certification with the Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine (BCEM).

According to the Monroe Clinic, “The breadth of training in primary care medicine makes the family physician a nearly ideal provider of emergency services in rural areas, where the ER is often the only access to health care. In fact, family physicians and other primary care doctors provide a wide spectrum of medical care in rural ERs, including most of the emergency care. That’s why we feel strongly that some type of advanced training/fellowship or certification is needed to ensure rural hospitals have access to well-trained EM physicians.”

Certification with the BCEM, a Member Board of the ABPS, recognizes physicians as eminently qualified EM professionals, positions them as leaders in the healthcare community, and broadens their opportunities for career advancement.

Primary care physicians with at least five years of full-time practice in EM and at least 7,000 hours practicing the specialty are also encouraged to apply for certification with the BCEM.

If you would like more information about AAEP-approved fellowship programs or the eligibility requirements for BCEM certification, contact the ABPS today.

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BCEM certification through ABPS has provided me with many opportunities. It has helped me demonstrate that I have special experience and expertise in Emergency Medicine beyond that obtained through my family medicine training. BCEM certification firmly established me as an emergency medicine specialist once I started working in emergency medicine full time. ABPS has also helped me network with other family physicians with a passion for improving rural and underserved emergency medicine practice.

Alex Beuning, MD, FAAEP
Emergency Medicine
Board certification through the American Board of Physician Specialties has served to substantiate my interest and additional training in several fields of medicine including Internal Medicine, Disaster Medicine, and Administrative Medicine. As a result, I have been able to serve my community in clinical, disaster response, and administrative medicine roles. Through the ABPS, I have become recognized as a leader in my various fields of interest.

Spencer Price MD, MPH, MBA
Internal Medicine, Disaster Medicine, Administrative Medicine
Personal challenge and motivation compelled me to pass my ABPS board exam. Measurement and confirmation of my own knowledge base reinforced my self-confidence. The ABPS, with its history of inclusivity, has allowed me to have a voice in the organization, while permitting me to impact overall national patient safety and care through certification. Participation in exam development afforded me the opportunity to witness the rigorousness of the exam process and psychometrically sound product, while developing meaningful collegiality, professional life enrichment, and warding off burn out.

Elizabeth Maxwell-Schmidt MD, FAAEP, FACEP
Emergency Medicine