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Shortage of Emergency Physicians Growing in Rural Areas

In urban areas, emergency physicians tend to be younger and female

running on a country road

MONDAY, Aug. 24, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Large areas of rural America are experiencing shortages of emergency physicians, according to a study published online July 31 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Christopher L. Bennett, M.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues used the 2020 American Medical Association Physician Masterfile data set and the 2018 Census Bureau estimates to characterize the current U.S. emergency physician workforce and to calculate emergency physician population density.

The researchers found that there were 48,835 clinically active emergency physicians (median age, 50 years; 28 percent women) in 2020. The overall density of emergency physicians was 14.9 per 100,000 population, with most emergency physicians located in urban areas (92 percent). Only 6 percent were located in large rural areas and 2 percent in small rural areas. Compared with those in rural areas, urban emergency physicians were younger (median age, 50 years versus 58 years in large rural areas and 62 years in small rural areas). Additionally, urban emergency physicians were more likely to be women (29 percent urban versus 20 percent and 19 percent in large and small rural areas, respectively). The total number of clinically active emergency physicians increased; however, emergency physician density decreased per 100,000 U.S. population in both large rural (0.4) and small rural (3.7) areas compared with 2008.

"Given the ongoing demand for physicians in all U.S. emergency departments, this analysis provides essential information for understanding the current emergency physician workforce and the challenges ahead," the authors write.

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