The effect of medical trainees on pediatric emergency department flow: a discrete event simulation modeling study

Emerson D Genuis, Quynh Doan
Academic Emergency Medicine: Official Journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine 2013, 20 (11): 1112-20

BACKGROUND: Providing patient care and medical education are both important missions of teaching hospital emergency departments (EDs). With medical school enrollment rising, and ED crowding becoming an increasing prevalent issue, it is important for both pediatric EDs (PEDs) and general EDs to find a balance between these two potentially competing goals.

OBJECTIVES: The objective was to determine how the number of trainees in a PED affects patient wait time, total ED length of stay (LOS), and rates of patients leaving without being seen (LWBS) for PED patients overall and stratified by acuity level as defined by the Pediatric Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) using discrete event simulation (DES) modeling.

METHODS: A DES model of an urban tertiary care PED, which receives approximately 40,000 visits annually, was created and validated. Thirteen different trainee schedules, which ranged from averaging zero to six trainees per shift, were input into the DES model and the outcome measures were determined using the combined output of five model iterations.

RESULTS: An increase in LOS of approximately 7 minutes was noted to be associated with each additional trainee per attending emergency physician working in the PED. The relationship between the number of trainees and wait time varied with patients' level of acuity and with the degree of PED utilization. Patient wait time decreased as the number of trainees increased for low-acuity visits and when the PED was not operating at full capacity. With rising numbers of trainees, the PED LWBS rate decreased in the whole department and in the CTAS 4 and 5 patient groups, but it rose in patients triaged CTAS 3 or higher. A rising numbers of trainees was not associated with any change to flow outcomes for CTAS 1 patients.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study demonstrate that trainees in PEDs have an impact mainly on patient LOS and that the effect on wait time differs between patients presenting with varying degrees of acuity. These findings will assist PEDs in finding a balance between providing high-quality medical education and timely patient care.

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