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Acad Emerg Med. 2011 Oct;18 Suppl 2:S71-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2011.01174.x.

Toward a new paradigm: goal-based residency training.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.



Many factors affect the clinical training experience of emergency medicine (EM) residents, and length of training currently serves as a proxy for clinical experience. Very few studies have been published that provide quantitative information about clinical experience. The goals of this study were to determine the numbers of clinical encounters for each resident in emergency department (ED) rotations during training in a 3-year program, to characterize these encounters by patient acuity and age, to determine the numbers of encounters for selected clinical disorders, and to assess the variation in clinical experience between residents.


This was a retrospective analysis of the ED clinical and administrative databases at two hospitals that provide EM training for a southeastern U.S. EM residency program. Data were gathered for three complete cohorts of residents, with entering years of 2003, 2004, and 2005, so the total study period was 2003-2008. ED clinical encounter information included hospital training site (tertiary or community), postgraduate year (PGY) of the resident, patient triage acuity reflected by the Emergency Severity Index (ESI); patient International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) diagnostic code; and patient age group.


There were 25 residents with 120,240 total ED clinical encounters from 2003 to 2008. The median number of ED clinical encounters for a resident during his or her training was 4,836 (range = 3,831 to 5,780), based on a maximum of an 80-hour work week, and 24 or 25 four-week blocks of EM rotations. Overall, clinical encounters increased by 30% from PGY 1 to PGY 2, and another 14% from PGY 2 to PGY 3. There was 30% to 60% variation in clinical encounters between individual residents. Variability was most prominent in the care of children and in the care of time-sensitive critical illness. Resident encounters with lower-acuity problems during training were much less than the anticipated lower-acuity burden during practice. Additionally, residents did not encounter some high-risk conditions clinically during the study period.


Methods should be developed to decrease resident variance in both numbers and types of clinical encounters and to provide curriculum supplementation for individuals and for the entire residency cohort in areas that are important for the clinical practice of EM, but that are rare or not encountered during residency training.

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