Prioritizing homelessness in emergency medicine education: A concept paper

AEM Educ Train. 2022 Jun 23;6(Suppl 1):S85-S92. doi: 10.1002/aet2.10753. eCollection 2022 Jun.

Abstract

Patients experiencing homelessness visit the emergency department (ED) often and have worse clinical outcomes. Caring for this patient population is complex, challenging, and resource-intensive. Emergency medicine (EM) education is lacking in formal curricula on the topic of homelessness, despite benefits for resident morale and patient care. Our goals were to identify a gap in EM education and training of the intersection of housing and health and propose educational topics and teaching methods to be included in residency curricula. Methodology was based on the development of a didactic session at the 2021 SAEM Annual Meeting. A needs assessment was performed through a review of medical education literature, a national survey of EM residency curricula, the individual curricula utilized by respective team members, and perspective from the team's own individual experiences with teaching about homelessness. Topics presented were chosen through discussion between the authors and determined to be common and relevant and cover a broad spectrum of content. The four presented topics included the intersection of COVID-19 and housing, the impact of LGBTQIA+ status on homelessness, housing status related to health system utilization and health outcomes, and housing inequity as a means of perpetuating structural racism. Suggestions for education of these topics included case-based learning, journal clubs, simulation, collaboration with social work, quality improvement projects, and engagement with community leaders. The ED is uniquely positioned to encounter the impacts of homelessness on health. Emergency physicians should be prepared to effectively care for these patients with complex social needs. Structured learning on this topic would benefit EM resident growth and lead to better patient care through improved screening, recognition of risk factors, and use of social resources.