Study objective: We estimate the total number of physicians practicing clinical emergency medicine during a specified period, describe certain characteristics of those individuals to estimate the total number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) and the total number of individuals needed to staff those FTEs, and compare the data collected with those data collected in 1997.
Methods: Data were gathered from a survey of a random sample of 2,153 hospitals drawn from a population of 5,329 hospitals reported by the American Hospital Association as having, or potentially having, an emergency department. The survey instrument addressed items such as descriptive data on the institution, enumeration of physicians in the ED, and the total number of physicians working during the period from June 6 to June 9, 1999. Demographic data on the individuals were also collected.
Results: A total of 940 hospitals responded (a 44% return rate). These hospitals reported that a total of 6,719 physicians were working during the specified period, or an average of 7.85 persons scheduled per institution. The physicians were scheduled for a total of 347,702 hours. The average standard for FTE was 40 clinical hours per week. This equates to 4,346 FTEs or 5.29 FTEs per institution. The ratio of persons to FTEs was 1.48:1. With regard to demographics, 83% of the physicians were men, and 82% were white. Their average age was 42.6 years. As for professional credentials, 42% were emergency medicine residency trained, and 58% were board certified in emergency medicine; 50% were certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine.
Conclusion: Given that there are 5,064 hospitals with EDs and given that the data indicate that there are 5.35 FTEs per ED, the total number of FTEs is projected to be 27,067 (SE=500). Given further that the data indicate a physician/FTE ratio of 1.47:1, we conclude that there are 39,746 persons (SE=806) needed to staff those FTEs. When adjusted for persons working at more than one ED, that number is reduced to 31,797. When the 1999 data are compared with those collected in 1997, we note a statistically significant decline in the number of hospital EDs, from 5,126 in 1997 to 5,064 in 1999 (P =.02). The total number of emergency physicians remained the same over the 2-year period, whereas the number of FTEs per institution increased from 5.11 to 5.35. The physician/FTE ratio remained unchanged.