Emergency Medicine: Opportunities and Obstacles

Since its inception just over 50 years ago, emergency medicine has continued to grow and change. The state of emergency care today presents varied challenges and opportunities for emergency care physicians, physician assistants and nurses.

This overview highlights some of the obstacles in emergency medical care. It also shares new ideas and opportunities for medical professionals to learn, grow and advance.

Obstacles in emergency medicine

Emergency professionals face challenges every day. Over the past few years though, changing patient volumes, patient populations and length of stay have shifted a great deal. The emergency care job market is also changing with an influx of residencies. However, many of the challenges and obstacles can be turned into positives.

Decreased patient volume and revenue

After a spike in emergency room visits early during the COVID-19 pandemic, visits dropped dramatically. People who used to go to the emergency department delayed treatment or went to urgent care clinics. This impacted patient volumes in emergency care significantly. Some emergency departments reported up to a 40 percent decrease in patient visits.

According to an American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) survey, lower patient volumes forced emergency medicine groups to cut workforce, coverage and benefits. Health systems found workarounds by utilizing other staff members or emergency care residents to save money and cut costs. Unfortunately, some hospitals continue to operate on this model, to the detriment of board-certified emergency medical physicians.

Emergency room patient volume has slowly been increasing, but some remain below pre-pandemic levels. Patient volume directly ties to revenue in emergency care. Emergency physicians don’t perform complex and high-revenue-generating procedures like other specialties. That means a decrease in patient volume causes a drop in revenue.

Higher acuity patients and limited hospital beds

The makeup of emergency care patients has changed since the pandemic. Better automobile and workplace safety have decreased the number of trauma cases in emergency rooms.

Parents of younger pediatric patients have begun to seek care at other venues. As baby boomers age, the average patient is older and more medically complex. Older, sicker patients and people with substance abuse or mental health issues have taken their place. These patients have more medical needs and often stay longer than other emergency care patients.

These high-acuity patients can create “exit blocks” in hospitals. They may stay in the emergency department for a long time because other departments have no space for them. Staffing shortages across departments also contribute to this.

Increased emergency medicine residencies, practitioners and mid-level provider care

According to a recent article, experts expect there will be more board-certified emergency physicians than jobs by 2030. It cites the expansion of emergency medicine residency programs as an issue. The number of students has exceeded the demand for emergency physicians.

Also, health care systems are utilizing residents and mid-level providers, like nurse practitioners and physician assistants. As a result, the need for board-certified emergency medicine physicians has decreased.

Emergency care jobs are available, but they may be in different areas than in the past.

Opportunities in emergency medicine

These obstacles present clear challenges and concerns, but opportunities for emergency room physicians and advanced care providers abound.

Increased standards for students

An ACEP task force has recommended increased residency standards to better prepare future emergency medicine workers. They also recommended limiting further expansion of residencies to ensure graduates can get jobs. These recommendations will help to reduce the number of students entering the field. They will also increase job security for emergency care physicians.

Continued need for emergency medical professionals in rural areas

Job opportunities for emergency medicine professionals exist in rural and resource-poor areas. These areas have ongoing shortages of emergency medicine physicians and professionals.

Rural areas need the expertise, insights and leadership of both new and experienced emergency room providers. Positions in rural areas also offer a wide range of experiences that differ from more specialized, urban settings.

New areas for emergency care

Expanding emergency care into other areas of medicine presents additional opportunities for ER physicians and nurses. Physicians can shape the future of emergency medicine in areas where they already thrive. Emergency physicians and nurses are experts at observation and critical care. They know a lot about ultrasound, public health and EMS.

New areas like emergency geriatric medicine, disaster medicine, pandemic preparedness and substance use disorders promise opportunities as well. As our population ages, the need for more geriatric emergency care will grow.

Emergency medicine has historically embraced new technologies, like telehealth. Telehealth treats patients who cannot come into the emergency department. Telehealth is effective and saves time. Physicians, PAs and nurses should learn more about emerging technologies and use them to help patients and coworkers.

For example, learn to use information technology to collect information on patients and disease management. Use remote monitoring to collect vitals and inform providers to create proactive management plans. Find new insights from artificial intelligence that predict and analyze data and patterns.

Technological advances offer new career opportunities for the physician workforce.

Locum tenens emergency care doctors

Emergency medicine nurses and physicians find freedom and flexibility in travel nursing and locum tenens positions.

Our providers appreciate the variety of experiences, opportunities for growth and relief from burnout and bureaucracy. Locum tenens and travel nursing positions may also open the door to future career advancements.

ER skills are more essential than ever

Emergency medicine continues to change, but the skills and experience that you provide are an essential part of care. Emergency care professionals have a lot to offer and many ways to help others.

Tinkbird Healthcare Staffing recognizes the value of emergency medical professionals and their skill sets in the medical community. We strive to provide quality matches, superior customer service and the support you need.

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