Even under the rosiest of scenarios, it's unlikely the nation's emergency rooms will be staffed with only emergency medicine specialists anytime soon, Boston researchers predict.
Writing in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine, lead author Dr. Carlos A. Camargo of Massachusetts General Hospital estimates that it would take until 2019 to find enough fully-trained, board-certified emergency physicians to work in the 4,828 emergency departments that are open 24 hours a day. And that best-case projection assumes that no current doctors who meet those qualifications die or leave their jobs.
The Institute of Medicine said in 2006 that ERs should ideally be staffed by doctors who had spent their residency training in emergency medicine and had later passed tests to become certified in the specialty. But only about 55 percent of doctors working in ERs meet that standard, Camargo and his co-authors write.
"The mismatch between the supply and demand for residency-trained, board-certified emergency physicians is a longstanding problem," Camargo said in a statement. "We probably should explore alternatives, such as giving the family physicians who currently staff many US emergency departments extra training in key emergency procedures. We might also increase our reliance on nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, who can help emergency physicians of any training background better handle the continually rising number of patients."
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