Study objective: To test the hypothesis that residency-trained emergency physicians who left the practice of emergency medicine do not differ significantly from those who continue to practice.
Design: A retrospective cohort study using a mailed questionnaire.
Type of participants: Eight hundred fifty-eight emergency medicine residency graduates from 1978 through 1982.
Methods: A mailed questionnaire was used to obtain data from the study population. Individuals who did not respond to the first mailing were sent a second survey six weeks later. A sample of 10% of nonrespondents was contacted by telephone and compared with respondents on five variables. Respondents were divided into physicians who continued to practice emergency medicine and those who had elected to leave the specialty. The variables used to compare the two groups included personal and professional demographics, career satisfaction, and satisfaction with training. chi 2, Fisher's exact t-test, and logistic regression were used to analyze the data with an a priori level of significance set at .05.
Measurements and main results: There were 539 complete responses for a response rate of 62.8%. No statistical differences between responders and nonresponders were identified. The ten-year survival rate of respondents was 84.9%. Those who left emergency medicine were less likely to be board certified in emergency medicine (P less than .001), were more likely to be board certified in another field (P = .001), were less likely to work with residents during their emergency medicine practice (P = .009), and were more likely to report an annual gross income of less than $100,000 per year (P less than .001). Emergency physicians who have left the field were less likely to report being satisfied or very satisfied with their initial choice of emergency medicine as a specialty (P = .001). There was no difference in satisfaction with the quality of emergency medicine residency training (P = .183).
Conclusion: Career longevity of residency-trained emergency physicians has been greater than early predictions. Interactions with residents, higher income, satisfaction with training decision, and board certification in emergency medicine are variables associated with a higher retention rate.