Boarding, Crowding, and Wait Times

The nation’s emergency physicians are sounding the alarm—the number of patients “boarding,” or held in the emergency department while waiting for care, has reached a crisis level.

In the emergency department, there are two types of wait times—waiting to get evaluated in the waiting room and "boarding" as the hospital takes time to transfer an admitted patient to an inpatient bed or appropriate care provider.

Wait times and staffing shortages are worse today than at any point during the pandemic in many communities. The resulting bottlenecks are overwhelming hospitals, causing dangerous delays, and putting lives at risk. Emergency care teams are strained to their limits.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) collected more than 100 personal stories from emergency physicians on the frontlines that illustrate just how dangerous the situation has become. 

While the consequences of boarding are felt in the emergency department, the challenges are systemic and there is no single solution. On September 27, 2023, ACEP organized and led a summit of stakeholders across health care to discuss the factors contributing to the boarding crisis and strategies to pursue collaborative solutions.

Read more about ER101

Read more about Access to Care

Access to Care Advocacy Boarding/Crowding ER101 Public Education