The Emergency Medicine Workforce: Shortage Resolving, Future Surplus Expected

J Emerg Med. 2020 Feb;58(2):198-202. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2020.01.004. Epub 2020 Apr 3.


Introduction: The emergency medicine (EM) workforce has been growing at a rapid rate, fueled by a large increase in the number of EM residency programs and growth in the number of Advanced Practice Providers (APPs).

Objectives: To review current available data on patient volumes and characteristics, the overall physician workforce, the current emergency physician (EP) workforce, and to project emergency physician staffing needs into the future.

Methods: Data was obtained through review of the current medical literature, reports from certifying organizations and professional societies, Web searches for alternative sources, and published governmental data.

Results: We conservatively estimate the demand for emergency clinicians to grow by ∼1.8% per year. The actual demand for EPs will likely be lower, considering the higher growth rates seen by APPs, likely offsetting the need for increasing numbers of EPs. We estimate the overall supply of board-certified or board-eligible EPs to increase by at least 4% in the near-term, which includes losses due to attrition. In light of this, we conservatively estimate the supply of board-certified or eligible EPs should exceed demand by at least 2.2% per year. In the intermediate term, it is possible that the supply of board-certified or eligible EPs could exceed demand by 3% or more per year. Using 2.2% growth, we estimate that the number of board-certified or board-eligible EPs should meet the anticipated demand for EPs as early as the start of 2021. Furthermore, extrapolating current trends, we anticipate the EP workforce could be 20-30% oversupplied by 2030.

Conclusions: Historically, there has been a significant shortage of EPs. We project that this shortage may resolve quickly, and there is the potential for a significant oversupply in the future.

Keywords: emergency medicine jobs; emergency medicine residency; emergency medicine workforce: shortage resolving; future surplus expected; physician workforce.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice
  • Emergency Medicine* / education
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Forecasting
  • Health Workforce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling
  • Physicians / supply & distribution*
  • United States