A comparison of pediatric emergency medicine and general emergency medicine physicians' practice patterns: results from the Future of Pediatric Education II Survey of Sections Project

James F Wiley, Susan Fuchs, Sarah E Brotherton, Georgine Burke, William L Cull, Janet Friday, Harold Simon, Ethan Alexander Jewett, Holly Mulvey
Pediatric Emergency Care 2002, 18 (3): 153-8

BACKGROUND: This survey was conducted to obtain information about career and practice issues facing pediatric emergency medicine (PEM) physicians and general emergency medicine (GEM) physicians. We hypothesized that PEM physicians work fewer clinical hours and perform more teaching and research in their positions than GEM physicians.

METHODS: Two surveys sponsored by the Future of Pediatric Education II Project were sent to 1545 emergency physicians identified by the American Board of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Emergency Physicians between October 1997 and February 1998. Data on demographics, job description, recent job changes, and career expectations were obtained and analyzed using Student t test or Welch analysis of variance for continuous variables and chi2 for categorical data. P values less than 0.05 were considered significant. Comparisons between PEM and GEM physicians were adjusted using analysis of covariance to control for the effect of medical school affiliation.

RESULTS: Effective response rate was 934 (64%) of 1451. A total of 705 (75%) respondents identified themselves as a PEM physician, and 229 (25%) identified as a GEM physician. PEM physicians were younger (41.0 y vs 45.1 y) and more likely to be women (44% vs 15%, P < 0.0001 for both). Children younger than 18 years made up 80.9% and 28.6% of patients seen by PEM and GEM physicians, respectively (P < 0.001). Seventy-nine percent of PEM physicians and 42% of GEM physicians held an academic appointment (P < 0.0001). No differences were found for full-time equivalents per physician group (9.7 vs 9.1) or clinical hours spent in the emergency department (ED) (31.5 vs 32.7) when means were adjusted for academic appointment. During ED clinical activities, PEM physicians reported more time spent supervising trainees (34% vs 16%, P < 0.0001), and GEM physicians reported more time spent in direct patient care (77% vs 57%, P < 0.0001). Total clinical hours worked per week were greater for GEM physicians (37.9 vs 35.3, P < 0.05). PEM physicians spent more time than GEM physicians teaching (12% vs 8%, P < 0.005) and conducting clinical research (5% vs 2%, P < 0.0003). Of PEM and GEM physicians combined, 26% reported a job change in the past 3 years. Extended reduction of ED clinical duties occurred most commonly because of child care issues and was reported more commonly by women than men (53% vs 6%, P < 0.0001) irrespective of PEM or GEM practice. The likelihood of leaving emergency medicine practice within 5 years increased with age for both groups: 10% of PEM and GEM physicians under 40 years old anticipated leaving practice versus 30% of those older than 50 years (P < 0.0001). PEM physicians were more likely than GEM physicians to predict an increased need for additional pediatric subspecialists in general (60% vs 26%, P < 0.001) and for pediatric subspecialists in their discipline (54% vs 17%, P < 0.001). PEM subspecialists were twice as likely as GEM specialists to perceive competition in their subspecialty (60% vs 31%, P < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: According to our sample, GEM and PEM physicians worked the same number of clinical hours in the ED but reported significant differences in how those hours are spent. Job changes and extended leaves were common in both groups. These results suggest that PEM and GEM physicians face similar vocational challenges, especially in the areas of balancing of family time, clinical hours, and academic productivity. These data also have important implications for workforce projection for the PEM physician supply, given the current estimated attrition rate, frequency of leave from clinical duties, and projection for increased need for PEM physicians in the future.

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