Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Nationwide Survey of Program Directors on Resident Attrition in Emergency Medicine


Introduction: Despite the burdens that resident attrition places upon programs and fellow trainees, emergency medicine (EM) as a specialty has only begun to explore the issue. Our primary objectives were to quantify attrition in EM residency programs and elucidate the reasons behind it. Our secondary objectives were to describe demographic characteristics of residents undergoing attrition, personal factors associated with attrition, and methods of resident replacement.

Methods: We conducted a national survey study of all EM program directors (PDs) during the 2018-2019 academic year. PDs were asked to identify all residents who had left their program prior to completion of training within the last four academic years (2015-2016 to 2018-2019), provide relevant demographic information, select perceived reasons for attrition, and report any resident replacements. Frequencies, percentages, proportions, and 95% confidence intervals were obtained for program- and resident-specific demographics. We performed Fisher’s exact tests to compare reasons for attrition between age groups.

Results: Of 217 PDs successfully contacted, 118 completed the questionnaire (response rate of 54%). A third of programs (39 of 118) reported at least one resident attrition. A total of 52 residents underwent attrition. Attrition was most likely to occur prior to completion of two years of training. Gender and underrepresented minority status were not associated with attrition. Older residents were more likely to leave due to academic challenges. The most common reported reason for attrition was to switch specialties. Resident replacement was found in 42% of cases.

Conclusion: One-third of programs were affected by resident attrition. Gender and underrepresented minority status were not associated with attrition.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View