Best Emergency Medicine Residency Programs (2023)

October 16, 2023


Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University

Reviewed: 10/16/23

If you’d like to join a residency program where you’re constantly faced with life or death decisions, critical patients, and the unexpected, read on to learn about the best residency programs for emergency medicine. 

Whether you’re a huge fan of Grey’s Anatomy and were inspired by Seattle Grace’s Level 1 Trauma Center that treated all sorts of unbelievable cases, or you simply wish to work in a high-paced medical specialty with the greatest impact on patients, it’s essential you pick the right emergency medicine (EM) residency program to succeed. 

A renowned emergency medicine residency program will equip you with the right experience and practice to be able to swiftly handle urgent and life-threatening situations. To help you choose the perfect residency, this guide will go over the best emergency medicine residency programs the nation has to offer!

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Best Emergency Medicine Residency Programs

Here are the top 8 emergency medicine residency programs.

The University of Washington

The University of Washington ranks as the best medical school in the nation for primary care. Accordingly, all of its residency programs are highly esteemed. Its EM residency program in particular comprehensively prepares students for emergency medicine through its various high-volume training sites.

One of their training sites, Harborview Medical Center, has the third-highest trauma volume of any emergency department in the entire nation. This hospital is also dedicated to treating disadvantaged populations such as immigrants, non-English speakers, those addicted to drugs or alcohol, and those with limited financial resources.

Their other training site, the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC), treats extremely sick patients and focuses on cancer care, cardiac care, transplants, and high-risk obstetrics and neonatal care. 

As if these training sites didn’t already offer UW students with diverse emergency experience, they also have a pediatric hospital and rural emergency department that residents rotate in. 

With this variety of emergency training, UW equips its residents with a range of skills and experience to thrive in any emergency medicine environment and situation.

The University of Southern California

USC’s EM residency training program is well-known and highly sought after by medical students. Beginning in 1971, USC has the longest-running EM residency program in the country. With years to hone their program, USC consistently produces graduates that excel in every aspect of the EM field. 

Residents spend the majority of their time training at the LAC+USC Medical Center, a Level 1 Trauma Center that provides students with emergency, inpatient, and outpatient experience. This center impressively stands as the largest single health care provider in L.A. and operates one of three burn centers in the County. 

By being exposed to so many different areas of emergency medicine, USC is an excellent option for students to find their niche and gain invaluable experience in it!

University of California - San Francisco 

UCSF has another one of the best emergency medicine residencies. UCSF not only ranks as the third-best medical school for research in the nation, but was also nominated as having America’s top residency programs.

In their EM program, students train at several renowned medical centers. The most well-known is the UCSF Medical Center, which consistently ranks as one of the top ten hospitals in the U.S. and treats around 41,400 complex patients a year!

Among the other five medical centers students train at, there are two children’s hospitals, a general hospital with a Level 1 Trauma Center, and a Veteran’s Hospital. Students in this program also get to choose their area of distinction in order to get the best mentorship and hands-on experience within their desired specialty. 

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins is a medical school with a reputation precedes it. It is one of the most sought after medical schools in the nation, and for good reason. Not only does this university on a whole rank as the third-best medical school for research, but its residency programs were nominated as some of the best in America.

Residents in this EM program train at three prominent medical centers, including the world-renowned John Hopkins Hospital, which ranks as the fifth-best hospital in the nation. This 100-bed hospital is a Level 1 Trauma Center that also contains a stroke center. 

Known as “the place where modern medicine was born,” residents training at this hospital get to experience revolutionary, innovative, and ground-breaking medicine first-hand!

Harvard University

As another medical school giant, it’s no surprise Harvard made yet another best list. 

Not only does Harvard rank first in the nation for research and ninth for primary care, but its EM residency program is also affiliated with two of the hospitals nominated for having the best residency programs in America: Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

This program is led by high-achieving mentors who work closely with students to offer them opportunities for clinical excellence, development, leadership, innovation, and lasting connections!

Duke University

Duke University, another high-ranking medical school, has a fairly new EM residency program that was founded in 2002. Despite this program being much newer than some of the others on this list, it has still garnered quite the reputation for itself and is known for its cutting-edge approaches to medicine. 

Residents not only gain hands-on experience through their diverse clinical rotations, but are also offered the opportunity to participate in various research studies. As one of its most interesting research areas, Duke offers students the chance to specialize and join research efforts in undersea and hyperbaric medicine!

Duke student practicing hyperbaric medicine
Source: Duke University

Attending Duke would give you a great opportunity to learn more about undersea and hyperbaric medicine.

The University of North Carolina

UNC’s EM residency program offers four different training sites to its residents to begin honing their EM clinical skills. The UNC hospital alone cares for 70,000 patients a year and is a high-volume Level 1 trauma center that exposes students to a complex variety of cases. 

UNC also has a non-for-profit training site called the WakeMed Medical Center that treats over 135,000 patients a year! By training at this site, students are able to help patients in the most need. 

The University of Colorado

The University of Colorado is affiliated with the Denver Health Emergency Residency program. Residents in this program train in high-volume, diverse clinical environments that give them unparalleled EM experience.

Denver Health was established in 1860 and is thus the oldest continuously operating hospital in Colorado. Since its establishment it has had a commitment to provide exceptional care to those with special health needs including impoverished populations, pregnant teens, people struggling with addiction, victims of violence, and more.

Not only are residents given excellent learning opportunities, but they are also given teaching opportunities. Denver residents teach high school students, paramedics, paramedic students, medical students, and interns. By learning and teaching, students perfect their clinical skills and take ownership of their knowledge!

How Competitive Is Emergency Medicine Residency?

After reviewing the best EM residency programs, you might be wondering what your chances are of landing a spot in this type of residency. 

Emergency medicine residency programs are generally competitive because there are always far more applicants than available spots. However, compared to other in-demand residencies such as neurology, it is far less competitive. 

To give you a better perspective on the competitiveness of EM, let’s look at some of the 2022 residency statistics. 3081 applicants applied to emergency medicine residency programs in 2022, but only 2702 of these applicants matched. 

In comparison, 1463 students applied for a neurology residency but only 761 actually matched into a program.

So, while emergency medicine is competitive, it is certainly not one of the most competitive residencies out there. There are also over 200 EM residency programs currently available, meaning students can apply to several programs to maximize their chances of matching!

FAQs: Best Emergency Medicine Residency Programs

If you have any remaining questions about the best emergency medicine residency programs, read on to find your answers.

1. Is Emergency Medicine a Competitive Residency?

Compared to other residencies, it has a medium level of competitiveness. While it’s not the easiest residency to get into, it’s far from being the hardest! 

2. What Makes a Good EM Residency?

Your residency is typically your last form of education before you become an independent doctor and can practice on your own, unless you also complete a fellowship. As such, you want to choose a program that offers the best and most diverse resources to help you succeed in your fast approaching medical career.

Look out for programs from high-ranking schools, as they can generally offer you more resources and opportunities. Otherwise, focus on the clinical rotations being offered.

You want a program that will let you see and experience as much as possible! Programs that are affiliated with several high-volume trauma training sites with different populations, such as women’s hospitals, children’s hospitals, or veteran’s hospitals, will best prepare you for your emergency medicine career. 

3. What Is Emergency Medicine?

Emergency medicine is a medical specialty that involves urgent and often life-threatening situations where patients need varying levels of care. EM physicians have to accurately diagnose, treat, and manage acute illness.

4. What Skills Are Required To Do Well In Emergency Medicine?

Students interested in EM must be able to adapt, handle pressure, and think quickly. This specialty is also very unpredictable! There’s no telling what kind of emergency you’ll encounter, so you must be comfortable with the unfamiliar and willing to consistently learn and problem-solve to be an effective EM physician.

While all specialities of medicine deal with patient loss, emergency medicine physicians often deal with critical patients and thus deal with patient loss frequently. Accordingly, aspiring EM physicians must be prepared for this and have the right resources and support to handle it.

5. How Many Emergency Medicine Programs Are Offered in the U.S.?

In 2022, there were 272 EM programs offered in the U.S.

6. Is Emergency Medicine a Popular Specialty?

Yes! It is one of the top specialty choices for students. Thousands of applicants apply to this specialty every year. 

7. How Long Are Emergency Medicine Residency Programs?

The majority of EM residency programs are three or four years long.

Final Thoughts 

Emergency medicine is a highly rewarding specialty, but it’s definitely not for everyone! It’s a difficult field to get into, and arguably even more difficult to stay in. Matching with one of the best emergency residency programs is a great way to maximize your chances of enjoying and thriving as an emergency medicine physician!

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