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.

Family Medicine Physicians With ER Expertise Deserve Recognition

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.

Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine (BCEM)

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.

Emergency Medicine Fellowship Programs

The BCEM also provides a certification pathway through approved emergency medicine fellowships approved by the American Academy of Emergency Physicians (AAEP). The AAEP recognizes teaching hospitals and medical schools that offer distinguished emergency medicine fellowships for primary care physicians. Completion of an AAEP-approved fellowship enables graduate fellows to apply for certification with the BCEM.

Eligibility Requirements of the BCEM

To be eligible to apply for initial board certification in emergency medicine, an applicant must first satisfy the general requirements of the ABPS. These include being a graduate of a recognized U.S. or Canadian allopathic or osteopathic college of medicine and holding a valid and unrestricted license to practice medicine in the United States, its territories, or Canada.

The Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine (BCEM) has its own eligibility requirements that include:

  • Completion of an ACGME, AOA, RCPSC, or CFPC-accredited residency in emergency medicine, or
  • Completion of an ACGME, AOA, RCPSC, or CFPC residency in one of the following primary care specialties—family practice, internal medicine, pediatric medicine, or general surgery—and at least 5 years AND 70,000 hours of full-time emergency medicine experience, or
  • Completion of an accredited residency in one of the following specialties—family practice, internal medicine, pediatric medicine, or general surgery—and a 12- or 24-month emergency medicine fellowship approved by the AAEP.

To earn BCEM certification, candidates in all three pathways must pass both a written and oral examination. The computer-based written exam consists of 325 multiple-choice questions. Candidates must pass the written exam to take the oral component.

You can find information about dates and fees for the application and the written exam here.

Once granted, all ABPS certificates are good for eight years, expiring on December 31st of the eighth year.

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. ®

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June 10-15, 2022
Patient Care Is Our Priority

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

I feel truly blessed and grateful to be an internal medicine board-certified diplomate with the American Board of Physician Specialties. Their ongoing, steadfast commitment to physician board(s) enhancement, forward focused vision, and tenacity is second to none. ABPS has become a recognized choice in Physician Board Certification.

Adam Rench, MD
Internal Medicine
To be the best, you must measure yourself against the best. Achieving Board Certification in Emergency Medicine by the ABPS gave me the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the art of EM in an objective way. The high bar that ABPS sets for candidates to be allowed to take both the written and oral exam is a testament to ABPS's rigorous vetting of one's ability to practice Emergency Medicine at a high level. By maintaining these credentials, I've been able to instill confidence in my abilities at the department/employer level and ultimately with the patients that choose to seek emergency care at the facilities at which I practice.

Royce Mathew Joseph, MD
Emergency Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has supported the entire field of Integrative Medicine in sponsoring our board. It has been so validating of the importance of prevention-oriented and holistic approaches to care while emphasizing the scientific basis of this specialty to have it recognized by ABPS. I am proud to have been one of the first groups to be board certified by ABPS in Integrative Medicine, leading the way for others committed to training in this specialty.

Myles Spar, MD
Integrative Medicine