ABPS Has Solutions for Rural Emergency Medicine Physician Shortages

Alex Beuning, MDThere 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. 

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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.

On October 18, 2007, President George W. Bush released Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), calling on our nation, among other initiatives, to “collectively support and facilitate the establishment of a discipline of disaster health”. It is a great testament to the wisdom and foresight of the American Board of Physician Specialties that it immediately set to work and created, within the short span of only one year, an educational blueprint and set of certification examinations, both written and oral, for a new subspecialty of disaster medicine—and it is why I chose to be part this vital initiative and this wonderful organization. This is but one of the many innovative programs initiated by the American Board of Physician Specialties over the years, and why I am proud to support its work on behalf of our nation’s public health.

Art Cooper, MD
Disaster Medicine
When the American Board of Physician Specialties offered to host the American Board of Integrative Medicine, ABPS became a landmark organization working to move medicine into the twenty first century. Certifying physicians who have completed rigorous academic training in Integrative Medicine ensures that the field of Integrative Medicine will continue to develop academically, clinically, and professionally. The leadership of ABPS continues to impress me - they are diligent in constantly innovating to provide certifications for physicians who want to advance their careers and their areas of expertise. I am honored to be a part of this organization.

Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
Integrative Medicine
There are many ways board certification advances a physician career. ABPS Board examination verifies your accuracy, precision, and reflects your mastery of your residency training verifying your expertise. ABPS Board certification demonstrates your level of expertise beyond your practice experience, primary education degrees, and training which are necessary for insurance reimbursement and practice privilege requirements. Attaining your ABPS Board Certification will clarify your purpose, secure your practice growth, and expand into leadership positions. Board certification can serve as an indication of a physician’s commitment to medicine, beyond the minimal standards and competency of training, their measurement to quality of care, and attaining an award for excellence.

Chris Kunis MD
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
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