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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 24, Issue 1, 2023

WestJEM Full-Text Issue

Education Special Issue - Original Research (Limit 3000 words)

Deciphering a Changing Match Environment in Emergency Medicine and Identifying Residency Program Needs

Introduction: The Match in emergency medicine (EM) is historically competitive for applicants; however, the 2022 residency Match had a large number of unfilled positions. We sought to characterize the impact of and response to the Match on programs and determine programs’ needs for successful recruitment strategies.

Methods: We conducted a web-based survey of EM residency program leadership during March–April 2022. Program characteristics were generated from publicly available data, and descriptive statistics were generated. We analyzed free-text responses thematically.

Results: There were 133/277 (48%) categorical EM residency programs that responded. Of those, 53.8% (70/130) reported a negative impression of their Match results; 17.7% (23/130) positive; and the remainder neutral (28.5%; 37/130). Three- and four-year programs did not differ in their risk of unfilled status. Hybrid programs had a higher likelihood of going unfilled (odds ratio [OR] 4.52, confidence interval [CI] 1.7- 12.04) vs community (OR 1.62, CI 0.68-3.86) or university programs (0.16, 0.0-0.49). Unfilled programs were geographically concentrated. The quality of applicants was perceived the same as previous years and did not differ between filled and unfilled programs. Respondents worried the expansion of EM residency positions and perceptions of the EM job market were major factors influencing the Match. They expressed interest in introducing changes to the interview process, including caps on applications and interviews, as well as a need for more structural support for programs and the specialty.

Conclusion: This survey identifies impacts of the changed match environment on a broad range of programs and identifies specific needs. Future work should be directed toward a deeper understanding of the factors contributing to changes in the specialty and the development of evidence-based interventions.


  • 1 supplemental ZIP

Procedural Curriculum to Verify Intern Competence Prior to Patient Care

Introduction: Emergency medicine (EM) programs train residents to perform clinical procedures with known iatrogenic risks. Currently, there is no established framework for graduating medical students to demonstrate procedural competency prior to matriculating into residency. Mastery-based learning has demonstrated improved patient-safety outcomes. Incorporation of this framework allows learners to demonstrate procedural competency to a predetermined standard in the simulation laboratory prior to performing invasive procedures on patients in the clinical setting. This study describes the creation and implementation of a competency-based procedural curriculum for first-year EM residents using simulation to prepare learners for supervised participation in procedures during patient care.

Methods: Checklists were developed internally for five high-risk procedures (central venous line placement, endotracheal intubation, lumbar puncture, paracentesis, chest tube placement). Performance standards were developed using Mastery-Angoff methods. Minimum passing scores were determined for each procedure. Over a two-year period, 38 residents underwent baseline assessment, deliberate practice, and post-testing against the passing standard score to demonstrate procedural competency in the simulation laboratory during intern orientation.

Results: We found that 37% of residents required more than one attempt to achieve the minimum passing score on some procedures, however, all residents ultimately met the competency standard on all five high-risk procedures in simulation. One critical incident of central venous catheter guideline retention was identified in the simulation laboratory during the second year of implementation.

Conclusion: All incoming first-year EM residents demonstrated procedural competence on five different procedures using a mastery-based educational framework. A competency-based EM curriculum allowed for demonstration of procedural competence prior to resident participation in supervised clinical patient care.

  • 1 supplemental ZIP

An Evaluation of Emergency Medicine Core Content Covered by Podcasts

Introduction: Podcasts are used broadly for learning in emergency medicine (EM); however, there is concern about the potential for knowledge gaps for learners who rely on podcasts for their learning. The extent to which EM podcasts cover the core curriculum of EM is not known; thus, we sought to quantify the extent to which podcasts represent the core content of our specialty.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of all EM podcast episodes published in 2019. All podcasts were given credit for the content they covered as it related to the 2016 American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) Model of Clinical Practice in Emergency Medicine (EM Model). The primary outcome was a description of how podcasts represented the ABEM EM Model content topics compared to the topic representation of the ABEM Qualifying Exam.

Results: We included 54 unique EM podcast programs and 1,193 podcast episodes. They covered 2,965 total EM Model core content topics. The topics most covered were “other” (which includes interpersonal skills and professionalism), procedures, and signs and symptoms. Musculoskeletal, hematology, and environmental each accounted for less than 1% of all topics covered. Almost three-quarters of podcast episodes covered other core competencies of the practice of EM.

Conclusion: Podcasts had a broad yet imbalanced coverage of the ABEM EM Model core content subtopics in 2019, with a notable coverage of other core competencies of the practice of EM. Learners, educators, and scholars should be mindful of these gaps and focus future work on exploring how podcasts should best be used in EM education.

  • 1 supplemental ZIP

PEARL: Pharmacy Education Applied to Resident Learners

Introduction: Emergency medicine residents typically train with the support of emergency medicine pharmacists (EMP), but many EM residents will practice in post-graduation settings without EMP assistance. Therefore, a novel pharmacy curriculum for postgraduate year-1 (PGY-1) EMRs was developed, implemented, and assessed. 

Methods: We performed a controlled study of 25 residents from two separate EM programs in Detroit, MI. One program was the control group and the other program was the intervention group. The primary outcome was pre- and post-curriculum knowledge assessment scores, and the secondary outcome was pre- and post-curriculum, self-perceived knowledge survey responses. We performed statistical analyses with Welch’s t-test or the Mann-Whitney U test.

Results: The pre-curriculum assessment scores (41% ± 11; 41% ± 8.1; P = 0.96; mean ± SD) and average pre-curriculum survey responses (2.8 ± 0.92; 3.0 ± 0.60; P = 0.35) were not statistically different between the control and the intervention groups. The post-curriculum assessment scores (63% ± 14; 74% ± 8.3; P = 0.04) and the average post-curriculum survey responses (4.2 ± 0.61; 5.0 ± 0.74, P = 0.02) were statistically different. The increase from the pre- to post-curriculum assessment scores (24% ± 11; 33% ± 11; P = 0.05) was also significantly different. 

Conclusion: The implementation of a novel pharmacy curriculum for PGY-1 EM residents resulted in improved knowledge of and comfort with pharmaceuticals and therapeutics specific to EM practice. The impact on patient care and frequency of medical errors requires further investigation.

  • 4 supplemental ZIPs

A Novel Point-of-care Ultrasound Curriculum for Air Critical Care Personnel

Introduction: Point-of care-ultrasound (POCUS) has become ubiquitous in emergency medicine practice for the management of emergent pathophysiology. There is growing interest in its potential as a diagnostic tool in the prehospital setting. Few studies have examined the feasibility or efficacy of curricula targeted at teaching POCUS to prehospital personnel. Our objective in this study was to investigate a curriculum for the extended focused assessment with sonography in trauma (eFAST) exam in helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) crews.

Methods: This was a pre/post intervention study of HEMS personnel at a tertiary care center. Subjects were administered a pre-intervention written test and an observed structured clinical evaluation (OSCE). Subsequently, they participated in an educational intervention intended to impart proficiency in performing the eFAST. Subjects underwent post-intervention written exams and OSCEs. We analyzed pre- and post-intervention test performance along with the number and quality of practice ultrasound examinations achieved.

Results: Sixteen subjects were enrolled (62.5% male, mean age 44.1). After undergoing the intervention, the mean written test score increased 22.1% (t=3.41; P <0.001) and the mean OSCE score increased by 64.5% (t=6.87, P <0.001). All subjects met “passing” criteria for the written test and OSCE on their post-intervention attempt. Subjects accomplished a mean of 21.1 clinically interpretable eFAST sonographs. Most subjects reported the curriculum was useful (90.1%) and that they would incorporate this skill into clinical practice (90.1%).

Conclusion: A targeted POCUS curriculum was feasible and effective in establishing clinical proficiency in HEMS crews for performing and interpreting the eFAST exam.

  • 3 supplemental PDFs

Taking More Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Practice Tests Does Not Lead to Improved National EM-M4 Exam Scores

Introduction: Emergency medicine (EM) is a required clerkship for third-year medical students, and an elective EM acting internship (AI) is available to fourth-year students at our institution. The Society for Academic Emergency Medicine’s (SAEM) National Emergency Medicine M4 Examination (EM-M4) is administered to students at the end of the EM AI experience. To prepare for the exam, students gain access to 23 practice tests available from SAEM. In this study we investigate the correlation between the number of practice tests taken and EM-M4 performance.

Methods: We collected data for EM-M4 and the US Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) from students completing a MS4 EM clerkship in consecutive medical school classes from 2014-2017 at a private medical school. In addition, we collected data during the clerkship on the number of practice exams taken and whether a comprehensive practice exam was taken. We analyzed the study population three ways to determine whether the number of practice tests impacted final exam results: a binary distribution (1-11 or 12-23 tests taken); quaternary distribution (1-6, 7-12, 13-18, or 19-23 tests taken); and individual test variability (1,2,3,…22,23 tests taken). Complete data for 147 students was used for data analysis.

Results: The EM-M4 showed moderate (r = 0.49) correlations with USMLE Step 2 CK. There was no significant difference in EM-M4 performance in the binary analysis (P ≤ 0.09), the quaternary analysis (P ≤ 0.09), or the continuous variable analysis (P ≤ 0.52). Inclusion of a comprehensive practice test also did not correlate with EM-M4 performance (P ≤ 0.78).

Conclusion: Degree of utilization of SAEM practice tests did not seem to correlate with performance on the EM-M4 examination at our institution. This could be due to many factors including that the question bank is composed of items that had poor item discrimination, possible inadequate coverage of EM curriculum, and/or use of alternative study methods. While further investigation is needed, if our conclusions prove generalizable, then using the SAEM practice tests is an extraneous cognitive load from a modality without proven benefit.

Simulation-based Mastery Learning Improves Emergency Medicine Residents’ Ability to Perform Temporary Transvenous Cardiac Pacing

Introduction: Temporary transvenous cardiac pacing (TVP) is a critical intervention that emergency physicians perform infrequently in clinical practice. Prior simulation studies revealed that emergency medicine (EM) residents and board-certified emergency physicians perform TVP poorly during checklist-based assessments. Our objective in this report was to describe the design and implementation of a simulation-based mastery learning (SBML) curriculum and evaluate its impact on EM residents’ ability to perform TVP.

Methods: An expert panel of emergency physicians and cardiologists set a minimum passing standard (MPS) for a previously developed 30-item TVP checklist using the Mastery Angoff approach. Emergency medicine residents were assessed using this checklist and a high-fidelity TVP task trainer. Residents who did not meet the MPS during baseline testing viewed a procedure video and completed a 30-minute individual deliberate practice session before retesting. Residents who did not meet the MPS during initial post-testing completed additional deliberate practice and assessment until meeting or exceeding the MPS.

Results: The expert panel set an MPS of correctly performing 28 (93.3%) checklist items. Fifty-seven EM residents participated. Mean checklist scores improved from 13.4 (95% CI 11.8-15.0) during baseline testing to 27.5 (95% CI 26.9-28.1) during initial post-testing (P < 0.01). No residents met the MPS at baseline testing. The 21 (36.8%) residents who did not meet the MPS during initial post-testing all met or exceeded the MPS after completing one additional 30-minute deliberate practice session.

Conclusion: Emergency medicine residents demonstrated significantly improved TVP performance with reduced variability in checklist scores after completing a simulation-based mastery learning curriculum.

Exploring Teamwork Challenges Perceived by International Medical Graduates in Emergency Medicine Residency

Introduction: Non-US international medical graduates (IMG) represent a gradually increasing portion of emergency medicine (EM) residents in the United States. Yet there are no previous studies that explore the needs of this learner population. We conducted a qualitative study to examine non-US IMGs’ perceptions of challenges they face specifically regarding team dynamics during their first year of an EM residency.

Method: Nine non-US IMGs in EM from all over the US participated in anonymous, semi-structured phone interviews lasting 45-60 minutes. We then coded and analyzed the interviews to identify axes and themes using an inductive approach informed by grounded theory. Focused coding and member checking were employed.

Results: Non-US IMGs’ perceptions of challenges regarding team dynamics during their first year of an EM residency coalesced into two themes: system-based challenges, such as a new power dynamic and understanding the local hospital system, and interpersonal challenges, such as establishing rapport and articulation of critical thinking.

Conclusion: Non-US IMGs perceived several unique challenges regarding team dynamics during their first year of an EM residency, whether system-based or interpersonal-based. We propose solutions such as a transitional curriculum (as suggested by the participants as well) and cultural-competence training for academic leadership.

  • 1 supplemental ZIP

Education Special Issue - Brief Educational Advances (Limit 1000 words)

Education Special Issue - Brief Research Report (Limit 1500 words)

Number of Patient Encounters in Emergency Medicine Residency Does Not Correlate with In-Training Exam Domain Scores

Introduction: Emergency medicine (EM) residents take the American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) In-Training Examination (ITE) every year. This examination is based on the ABEM Model of Clinical Practice (Model). The purpose of this study was to determine whether a relationship exists between the number of patient encounters a resident sees within a specific clinical domain and their ITE performance on questions that are related to that domain.

Methods: Chief complaint data for each patient encounter was taken from the electronic health record for EM residents graduating in three consecutive years between 2016-2021. We excluded patient encounters without an assigned resident or a listed chief complaint. Chief complaints were then categorized into one of 20 domains based on the 2016 Model. We calculated correlations between the total number of encounters seen by a resident for all clinical years and their ITE performance for the corresponding clinical domain from their third year of training. 

Results: Available for analysis were a total of 232,625 patient encounters and 69 eligible residents who treated the patients. We found no statistically significant correlations following Bonferroni correction for multiple analyses.

Conclusion: There was no correlation between the number of patient encounters a resident has within a clinical domain and their ITE performance on questions corresponding to that domain. This suggests the need for separate but parallel educational missions to achieve success in both the clinical environment and standardized testing.


Education Special Issue- Perspective

Debriefing Gold: Harnessing the Power of Debriefing Data to Inform Education

Debriefing is a critical element in healthcare, both in the clinical environment and in the simulation lab. Often, what is said at a debriefing is not recorded, leading to loss of critical data that could be used to inform future simulations, education, and systems improvement. In this perspective piece, we explain the powerful role that capturing debriefing data can have for identifying themes to improve learners’ knowledge and skills, as well as inform data-driven systems change and initiatives.

Universal Precautions Plus: Physician-Directed Strategies for Improving Patient Health Literacy in the Emergency Department

Working on the frontlines with safety-net populations, emergency physicians are uniquely positioned to take on a greater role in addressing the current health literacy crisis and specific barriers that may exist. Here, we review the concept of universal health literacy precautions and explore the application of these universal precautions in conjunction with other patient-centered strategies. More specifically, to improve patient understanding and outcomes, emergency physicians can pair universal health literacy precautions with strategies including multiple learning techniques, dual-code theory, empowerment counseling, family buy-in, and hands-on practice. We provide two examples of emergency department encounters where this combined approach was used differently yet successfully and efficiently. Ultimately, we aim to highlight the value of emergency physicians being equipped with basic skills in health literacy educational strategies.