America’s emergency departments are critically short on clinicians. As such, there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to leave behind other specialties to enter emergency medicine. Opportunities also exist for new doctors just getting started and even locum tenens clinicians looking for the most challenging opportunities in medicine.
Making emergency medicine even more inviting are five emerging trends that will impact emergency departments for years to come. Each of these trends gives clinicians yet another reason to consider a career in emergency medicine.
1. Rising Clinician Compensation
Merritt Hawkins’ annual compensation survey showed that clinician pay is up across the board. From invasive cardiologists to internists, everyone seems to be getting a larger slice of the pie. That’s good news to emergency department clinicians.
According to the 2018 survey, average compensation for the ED physician sits at $358,000. That’s up $9,000 from the previous year. Moreover, Merritt Hawkins ranks emergency medicine has 10th on their list of top 20 clinical jobs ranked by compensation.
2. Growth in Freestanding Eds
The ongoing doctor shortage is exacerbated in the emergency department by a commensurate shortage of floor space. As such, hospital systems are looking at building freestanding emergency departments where state laws allow.
Freestanding emergency departments separate emergency care from the rest of the hospital. With that separation comes a bit more freedom and flexibility. In addition, many of these freestanding EDs are being built in areas that previously lacked any access to quality healthcare. This gives clinicians the opportunity to work for a reputable system but still enjoy a more relaxed work environment in a rural setting.
3. An Aging Population
The next emerging trend on our list is a gradually aging population. This is benefit-neutral to ED clinicians, but it will impact their work, nonetheless. An aging population means more older patients in the ED for a wider variety of illnesses and injuries. Clinicians will have to adapt to patient loads accordingly.
As a side note, we are beginning to see the emergence of something known as ‘GeriED’, a more focused form of emergency medicine that concentrates more on senior patients. Who knows? It might someday become a specialty unto itself.
4. Greater Utilization of Locum Tenens
The majority of hospitals in the U.S. make use of locum tenens to fill staffing shortages on a regular basis. All indications suggest that reliance on locum tenens for emergency medicine will only increase in the coming years. This suggests plenty of opportunities for clinicians looking to combine emergency medicine and the locum life.
5. Shifting Patient Loads
Finally, ED clinicians will be facing a shift in patient loads in the coming years. According to a JAMA Internal Medicine report from late 2018, data shows that while the total number of emergency department visits has been steadily increasing in recent years, the number of those visits resulting in admission has decreased a bit.
This suggests that more people are visiting the emergency department for non-emergency care. They are seeking treatment for minor injuries, non-critical illnesses, and the like. Some are even using hospital EDs as their source of primary care. These are all things the ED clinician will have to adapt to in the coming months and years.
The one thing we can always count on is that emergency medicine is rarely the same one day to the next. Any clinician looking for a career offering constant challenges and rapid-fire evolution would do well to consider emergency medicine. It is one of the most exciting fields of medical practice around.