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Solving the Doctor Shortage in Rural Emergency Departments

ER Doctor ShortageDespite an actual increase in the number of emergency medicine specialists in the United States, ER departments across the country are experiencing troubling staffing shortages. Rising ER visits, coupled with a rapidly aging population and various other factors has resulted in insufficient ER physician staffing levels – particularly in rural parts of America that historically have had difficulty attracting residency-trained emergency medicine specialists.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Instead of restricting employment to residency-trained ER physicians, as many emergency departments do, vacant positions can and should be filled by family medicine practitioners who have extensive experience treating patients in emergency settings. Family medicine is a medical specialty devoted to providing comprehensive care for people of all ages. Its emphasis is on providing continuing and comprehensive healthcare to both individuals and families across all ages, genders, parts of the body, and diseases. In many communities, especially in those where ER specialists are scarce, family medicine physicians have naturally gravitated toward ER positions for which their skills are exceptionally well suited. Though not residency-trained in emergency medicine specifically, family medicine doctors who have spent significant time in the ER are highly qualified to provide quality emergency care. In short, ER privileges should be granted to those who are able to demonstrate the ability to competently practice emergency medicine – not just to those who completed residencies in the EM specialty. Doing so will not only help solve our nation’s emergency department doctor shortage but also give highly dedicated family medicine practitioners the opportunity to pursue employment in emergency medicine and contribute their skills and insights to the specialty as a whole.

What can a family medicine practitioner with extensive ER experience do to help make him- or herself more visible in the emergency medicine job marketplace? One option is join the Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine (BCEM) as a Diplomate. A Member Board of the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS), the BCEM has been responding to the certification and recertification needs of emergency department doctors since 1989. Though our eligibility standards and examination protocols are rigorous, we offer a path to certification that gives ER physicians the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of the specialty. Becoming Board Certified in Emergency Medicine can show current and prospective employers alike that you possess skills that are on par with residency-trained ER specialists. In addition, becoming a BCEM Diplomate is an impressive professional achievement that can open up opportunities for advancement in the medical field that otherwise might not have been available to you. Though trained in Family Medicine, you work in the ER because it is a fast-paced and challenging environment where you can bring your multifaceted skills to bear on a wide range of injury and illnesses. Once you become a BCEM Diplomate, you will take your rightful place among other board-certified ER doctors who are helping to move the specialty forward.

To learn more about the benefits of and eligibility requirements for Emergency Medicine Board Certification through the BCEM, contact the ABPS today. The ABPS is the official multi-specialty board-certifying body of the American Association of Physician Specialists, Inc. ®