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. ®

Save the Date
House of Delegates & Annual Scientific Meeting
Innovation & Overcoming Challenges
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.

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