ABPS Has Solutions for Rural Emergency Medicine Physician Shortages
There has been a decades-long shortage of qualified emergency medicine physicians in rural areas, a problem that’s only expected to worsen as a generation of rural doctors retires. For perspective, consider a 2021 study by the American College of Emergency Physicians. It found that 92% of emergency physicians practice in urban areas, while only 6% practice in large rural settings and 2% in small rural areas.
To fill the workplace gap, rural emergency departments have relied on the services of primary care trained doctors. The breadth of training in primary care medicine makes primary care physicians a nearly ideal provider of emergency services in rural areas, where specialization is less common.
Why Physician Board Certification Matters
Board certification continues to be a reliable indicator of a physician’s competency in a specialty. For doctors interested in emergency medicine certification, a primary care residency is not sufficient to demonstrate competency in the specialty. But the Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine (BCEM) offers them a pathway.
If you are a rural emergency physician who is certified in a primary care specialty such as family medicine or internal medicine, you can apply for BCEM certification in one of two ways. Either complete a post-graduate fellowship in emergency medicine or apply through the “practice track,” which requires five years of emergency medicine practice with at least 7,000 hours of emergency department coverage, letters of support, and case reports. To earn BCEM certification, candidates in either pathway must pass both a written and oral examination.
When I entered rural emergency medicine practice 20 years ago, fellowship training was not available, so I became BCEM certified through the practice track.
BCEM certification serves as confirmation that a doctor is uniquely qualified in his or her specialty, instilling patients with confidence that they are in good hands. Across the country, BCEM-certified physicians continue to demonstrate their emergency medicine knowledge and expertise, working at some of the nation’s most respected institutions. Rural hospitals can benefit from a wider pool of qualified emergency physicians by promoting physicians with BCEM certification.
As a BCEM Diplomate speaking on behalf of BCEM’s governing body, the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS), I urge rural hospitals to consider BCEM physicians as a smart solution to the shortage of rural EM doctors.
Dr. Alex Beuning, MD, FAAEP, is a Diplomate of the BCEM and practices emergency medicine at three Wisconsin hospitals owned by Mayo Clinic.