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The American Academy of Emergency Medicine Releases its Definition of Emergency Physician

Posted Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

The American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) board of directors approved its definition of “emergency physician” on July 11, 2011. AAEM defines an “emergency physician” as someone who has either completed an accredited training program in Emergency Medicine, or is certified in Emergency Medicine by a recognized certifying body.

In the U.S., legitimate emergency medicine training is accredited by the ACGME RRC-EM, or the AOA COPT-EM. The only recognized emergency medicine certifying bodies in the U.S. are ABEM or AOBEM. In the case of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, the ABP is also included.

Countries other than the U.S. should define the legitimate training approval and certification process for their nation. Further, nothing in this definition is intended to exclude those pioneering physicians around the world who have or are advancing the specialty of emergency in their countries by starting practice in a reasonable establishment phase during which formal training is not widely available. This establishment phase ended long ago in the U.S.

AAEM firmly opposes referring to any physician who works in the Emergency Department as an “emergency physician.” Emergency medicine has consistently maintained that it is defined by its unique body of knowledge, not the site of practice. Referring to any physician who has not been formally educated in the unique body of knowledge that is emergency medicine as an emergency physician is a misrepresentation of their credentials.

There is a significant shortage of emergency physicians in the U.S. This workforce problem can only be solved by correctly categorizing the ED workforce into emergency physicians and non-emergency physicians. If a physician of another specialty background is practicing in an ED, they should represent themselves, and be represented, to the public as “(other specialty physician) providing emergency care.”

Please note that AAEM is not applying this definition to other countries and encourages other countries to define legitimate training approval and certification process for their nation.