Introduction: This study was undertaken to describe the current status of the emergency medicine workforce in the United States.
Methods: Surveys were distributed in 2008 to 2619 emergency department (ED) medical directors and nurse managers in hospitals in the 2006 American Hospital Association database.
Results: Among ED medical directors, 713 responded, for a 27.2% response rate. Currently, 65% of practicing emergency physicians are board certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine or the American Osteopathic Board of Emergency Medicine. Among those leaving the practice, the most common reasons cited for departure include geographic relocation (46%) and better pay (29%). Approximately 12% of the ED physician workforce is expected to retire in the next 5 years. Among nurse managers, 548 responded, for a 21% response rate. Many nurses (46%) have an associate degree as their highest level of education, 28% have a BSN, and 3% have a graduate degree (MSN or higher). Geographic relocation (44%) is the leading reason for changing employment. Emergency department annual volumes have increased by 49% since 1997, with a mean ED volume of 32 281 in 2007. The average reported ED length of stay is 158 minutes from registration to discharge and 208 minutes from registration to admission. Emergency department spent an average of 49 hours per month in ambulance diversion in 2007. Boarding is common practice, with an average of 318 hours of patient boarding per month.
Conclusions: In the past 10 years, the number of practicing emergency physicians has grown to more than 42 000. The number of board-certified emergency physicians has increased. The number of annual ED visits has risen significantly.