There Is a Pathway for Primary Care Trained Physicians to Become Board Eligible in Emergency Medicine

BCEMPrimary care trained physicians serve on the staff of emergency departments throughout the country. In fact, about 40 percent of the nation’s emergency department workforce are doctors with substantial experience in emergency medicine who have also completed a primary care residency. These physicians have established rewarding careers in emergency care and have continually demonstrated high proficiency in the emergency room, a demanding environment that requires multifaceted skills, a calm demeanor, and confident decision-making. Today’s medical industry requires continuous improvement, and these doctors deserve to be recognized for their dedication and proven expertise.

Board certification is one of the best ways to earn recognition, but, unfortunately, for many years, certification in emergency medicine required residency training in the field. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. The Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine® (BCEM) offers a certification pathway to primary care trained physicians with extensive experience in the emergency room.

The BCEM was developed by the nationally recognized certification body the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS) to ensure that qualified physicians have the opportunity to pursue board certification in their area of expertise. That’s why, at the BCEM, emergency residency training is not an eligibility requirement for certification. To be eligible for BCEM certification, a physician who did not complete an emergency medicine residency must:

  • Have completed a residency in a primary care field and practiced emergency medicine for at least five years on a full-time basis, while accumulating at least 7,000 hours of ER time.


  • In lieu of five years’ experience, have completed graduate training in an approved emergency medicine fellowship

If you are a primary care physician who is considering applying for emergency medicine certification, or if you would like information about approved emergency medicine fellowships, contact the ABPS. We will be happy to answer your questions and provide you with more details about the BCEM’s eligibility requirements.

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Medical organizations throughout North America understand that our rigorous certification standards prove that ABPS Diplomates are capable of delivering the best patient care possible.

When I decided to pursue a full time role as a physician executive it was important to me to obtain additional professional training, education and work experience. Board certification through the ABPS in Administrative Medicine is validation of my efforts and a demonstration of dedication to professional development. We need more physicians to become full time health care executives, knowing there is a board certification option in Administrative Medicine encourages physicians to take the leap from full time clinical practice to healthcare organizational leadership.

Richard Paula, MD
Administrative Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of internal medicine through board certification. As a hospitalist, board certification is an expected credential, and hospitals recognize the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) as one of the three standard credentialling bodies for Internal Medicine. Additionally, the ABPS has helped me develop leadership skills as a Board member and Committee Chairperson. ABPS has also helped me sharpen critical thinking skills as a test question developer and reviewer. The Allopathic (MD) and Osteopathic (DO) physicians in the ABPS are lifelong learners and frequently pursue multiple board certifications. I enjoy the camaraderie of my peers in ABPS.

Loren Jay Chassels, DO
Internal Medicine
When I think historically, advancement in medicine and patient safety and care has been driven by the diversity of people and scientific thought. That’s what I found at the ABPS and more. For over 60 years that is just who we are. I found a physician certifying body that provides a choice and voice to all physicians ensuring that patients are always placed first.

Jerry Allison, MD
Emergency Medicine