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. ACEP is leading the call for the White House to convene a summit of health care leaders. Collective action is urgent and necessary to help emergency physicians address this crisis and save lives.

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