As a specialized healthcare staffing agency, we are dedicated to staffing rural and remote locations. Often, the facilities we staff are solo-provider sites. That means that as a healthcare provider, you need to be able to carry your own while on assignment. The majority of our clients request that providers have at least two years of experience with emergency medicine experience, specifically. This can present a “chicken and the egg” problem for prospective locums, who want the experience of working in jobs that require EM experience but don’t yet have the experience. Here’s how to get more emergency medicine experience as a locum tenens.
Skills You Need as an Emergency Medicine Healthcare Provider
Regardless of your profession, if you’re providing solo healthcare to a community, there are some skills that you’ll need.
In emergency medicine, you need to be prepared to see and treat all types of cases. You never know what might come into the door of your facility. Staying flexible and being prepared for any situation is critical.
You’ll need to have the skills and training for as many procedures as possible. You’ll want to make sure that you can confidently perform basic emergency medical procedures such as venipunctures, oxygen therapy, and airway techniques. You’ll need to understand how to read x-rays, even if you have the option to send them off to radiology. Having the ability to read labs will also prove beneficial. Additionally, knowing how to perform I&D, suture, and splint will also be required. You’ll need to be able to assess the patient and determine whether higher level care is needed, and how urgently they need care. This might mean getting someone transferred to another care facility via Medevac or an ambulance.
Maintaining your life-saving certifications (which we’ll discuss in more detail below) is also necessary to practice emergency medicine.
General Ways to Gain More Emergency Medicine Experience
Join Emergency Medicine National Organizations
These organizations will differ depending on your profession. To get more exposure to emergency medicine and fellow healthcare providers who are interested in or actively practicing medicine in this specialty, joining emergency medicine-specific trade organizations can be beneficial.
Physician Assistants have the Society of Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants recommended by the AAPA.
An organization that nurse practitioners can consider is the American Academy of Emergency Nurse Practitioners. Nurse Practitioners can also join the Emergency Specialty Practice Group as part of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Emergency Medicine-Focused Resources
Gain fluency in EM or keep your skills sharp by using one of the many great resources available on the web. For instance, many EM providers swear by EM:RAP or similar services that offer practitioner-driven content.
Work in an Emergency Department
Rural and remote solo-provider websites are very different than working in the emergency room in an urban area. Nonetheless, the emergency room experience in itself can be priceless. If you have an opportunity to gain real-life working experience in the emergency department of a larger organization, this can be highly beneficial when you’re ready to transition into patient care in solo provider scenarios.
WMS Founder and Chief Medical Officer says, “nothing replaces experience in emergency medicine.”
If you’re considering fast-track ER vs. working in the main emergency room, you’ll want to experience working in the main ER as this will provide you with the most valuable experience. You can build your base of emergency experience by working PRN or moonlighting at a local ER. Seek opportunities to see as many high-acuity patients as you are allowed.
Volunteer as an EMT
If you are early off in your career in medicine, especially if you’re a student, volunteering as an EMT can be a great introduction to emergency medicine. It allows you to get valuable clinical experience. You’ll also be the first point of contact for traumas or coding patients. In this role, you’ll get to see first-hand emergency medicine scenarios and will get opportunities to help treat patients.
Sometimes providers will also get access to acute care centers or critical care clinics, so you may be able to work with a wide range of patients.
Get an Emergency Medicine Mentor
Some providers have succeeded in getting more emergency medicine experience by connecting with a trusted mentor who has been working in the emergency medicine field. This person can become an excellent resource for knowledge of how to get the right kind of experience that you’ll need as you work to get additional emergency medicine experience.
Gaining More Emergency Medicine Experience by Profession
Each healthcare profession may have different ways to acquire emergency medicine skills. Since we staff physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners, we’ll touch on the skills each professional will need to work in facilities that require emergency medicine.
Depending on where you are in your education, how you can acquire emergency medicine experience as a physician can vary.
If you’re still in school, shadowing an experienced emergency medicine physician or even volunteering within the ER can be a great way to make sure it’s a specialty of medicine that you’d like to explore more before committing.
Those who are going into family medicine can select their residency based on opportunities to develop rural skills, like emergency medicine. Residents can moonlight to earn extra money and experience. They can also plan their residency to ensure they receive more EM experience.
Beyond that, securing a position as a physician in an emergency role at a larger facility is a great start to getting real-life experience. Optionally, picking up shifts at a critical access hospital in your area is a proven way to gain emergency medicine experience. You can do this either as a full-time staff member, as a locum tenens, by moonlighting, or as a PRN.
As a PA, you should have a collaborating physician at most jobs or positions in larger healthcare facilities. Getting experience with emergency medicine physicians can be an invaluable experience to gaining more solo emergency medicine experience.
You may also be able to find a post-graduate emergency medicine residency program as a PA if you’re new to the field, although spots can be hard to come by. It may be easier to get full-time employment within a larger emergency department.
To be a successful nurse practitioner in an emergency environment, having a background as an ENP (emergency nurse practitioner) or an ACNP (acute care nurse practitioner) can be very beneficial. Optionally, FNPs (family nurse practitioners) also have an advantage due to their experience with patients of all ages.
As an NP, as part of your post-graduate education, you may decide to do an emergency medicine residency or fellowship.
Similarly, to the career path of a physician or physician assistant, getting hands-on experience within an emergency department is one of the best ways to get additional emergency medicine experience.
Additional Ways to Gain More Emergency Medicine Experience
Beyond work experience, many of the clients we work with require that healthcare providers have certain certifications before working on an assignment, particularly at solo-provider sites. We’ve written an in-depth article about all of these courses, but you can read through a snapshot of the ones we’d recommend below.
We recommend that providers, at the very least, need certificates in BLS (Basic Life Support), ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support), and PALS (Pediatric Advanced Support). For solo-provider locations, you should also have a certification in ATLS (Advanced Trauma Life Support). You may consider getting certified in CALS (Comprehensive Advanced Life Support), as well.
One course we recommend providers who are focused on emergency medicine take is Emergency Medicine Bootcamp. While a certificate is not given for this course, it does count for CME credits, and completion of the course shows expertise in the emergency medicine field on a CV.
Additionally, to make sure you’re prepared for any circumstance that comes your way while in rural and remote locations, we recommend Advanced Airway Course, ALSO (Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics), and Neonatal Resuscitation Program.
While gaining emergency medical experience can take some additional training and work experience, for many of our providers, it’s the type of work that gets healthcare providers excited to get back to meaningful medicine and provide high-quality healthcare to patients.
If you’re ready to learn more about the types of emergency medicine assignments we have available, contact our team.