With recent residency match data showing a 26 percent drop in applications to emergency medicine training programs since 2021, this article in the Washington Post grapples with why the once sought-after profession is now struggling with recruitment.
Some point to high rates of pandemic burnout and the unappealing nature of the work: emergency departments (EDs) are increasingly overcrowded, understaffed, and violent—turning ED docs into “the cops of medicine,” as one ED residency program leader put it. Others suggest that residents are simply following the money elsewhere, discouraged by reports of an impending oversupply of ED physicians in coming years.
The Gist: The days of the television drama ER, which inspired a generation of would-be doctors to pursue emergency medicine, are gone—most medical students graduating today weren’t even born when the show first aired in 1994. The article fails to note the changes in EDs brought on by investor-backed staffing companies, which now staff anywhere from an estimated quarter to half of the nation’s EDs.
They’re accused of cutting costs by hiring fewer ED docs, as well as funding more ED residency spots in an attempt to flood the market and drive down their future labor costs even further. In the wake of COVID, emergency physicians find themselves in EDs largely staffed by advanced practice providers.
While in the near-term hospitals will surely face challenges in staffing these critical roles, shortages may drive momentum to refine and expand technology- and team-based care models.