Medical residents help to reduce emergency department wait times

Western University researchers have completed the first study demonstrating that medical residents are associated with a reduction in emergency department wait times and patients leaving without being seen in a medium-volume community hospital.

Medium-volume community hospitals treat between 20,000 and 30,000 patients in their emergency department annually.

Co-authors Dr. Wang Xi and Dr. Vikram Dalal analysed 21,141 patient visits to Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital in Strathroy, Ontario, between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, which reflects a full resident year. The study looked at first- and second-year family medicine residents on rotation in the emergency department.

Drs. Xi and Dalal measured several factors and compared those factors between two groups – staff physicians working with residents and staff physicians working without residents. Measurements included time from initial triage to the initial assessment by a physician, total length of stay, and number of patients who left without being seen after triage.

Residents were associated with a 15 minute reduction in wait time for initial triage to the initial physician assessment and a 12 minute reduction in total length of stay in the emergency department

There was also a 2.8 per cent reduction in the number of patients who left without being seen.

Several factors are credited with the reduction. Residents were able to see patients, assess patients, order tests and begin the charting process earlier than if a staff physician was working alone. Having a resident present also allowed the staff physician more time with each patient. Being able to delegate various tasks to the resident also provided more time for patient education around diagnosis and disease management.

“Residents can have a very supportive impact on patient care in community-based hospitals and medical practices,” said Dr. Xi. “Receiving timely and excellent patient care is what patients, physicians and communities want. Residents can have a positive role in making that happen.”

Dr. Xi, adjunct professor, Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, practices family medicine in Cobourg. Dr. Dalal, assistant professor, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, is the Chief of Emergency at Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital with a family practice at the Southwest Middlesex Health Centre in Mount Brydges.

To schedule an interview with Dr. Xi, please contact Tristan Joseph.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tristan Joseph, Media Relations Officer, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, t. 519.661.2111 ext. 80387, c. 519.777.1573, tristan.joseph@schulich.uwo.ca

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