Holy Cross Sets High Standards for Emergency Room Physicians

Americans living in rural communities can face unique challenges when it comes to accessing healthcare services. Long drives and limited options often mean that it can be difficult to access high quality healthcare services. Luckily for those of us that live in the Taos area, we have access to a hospital that provides a wide range of services, but also has an Emergency Department (ED) that is staffed by board certified doctors. A board certification requirement is not something that is found at all hospital EDs, and is even more rare for a hospital in a small rural community.

Hospital’s set many of their own standards for staffing requirements. To provide medical care all doctors in an emergency room will be licensed by the State, but that doesn’t mean that they are board certified. The decision to require doctors to be board certified is established by the hospital’s board and leadership team, then written into policy. Holy Cross Hospital sets a high standard for their ED physicians, with a policy that requires all ED doctors to be board certified. While policies like this help ensure that the doctors hired are highly qualified, it’s not a practice that every hospital follows. It is becoming increasingly difficult to fully staff an ED with board certified doctors and hospitals throughout the nation may choose not to require the certification for their staff.

Heather Marshall Vaskas, Emergency Medical Director at Holy Cross Hospital said, “Many small rural hospitals have a hard time staffing their emergency department and don’t require their physicians to be board certified. At Holy Cross Hospital we require the certification as an additional step to bring the best healthcare options to our community.”

Board certification is voluntary for doctors in all professions and is usually completed within two to three years after their residency is completed. The board certification process is different for each medical specialty, and usually requires extensive written exams as well as oral exams. In emergency medicine the board certification process begins 6 months after a doctor finishes their residency. The process begins with a four to six-hour written examination, and it takes several months for the results. One year after passing the written exam, an oral examination is completed. If both exams are passed, the doctor becomes board certified. In order to maintain their board certification status, physicians are often required to meet ongoing certification requirements or are required to complete the process regularly throughout their career.

This additional and voluntary step in a doctor’s medical path underscores their commitment to providing care. For patients, board certification is a way to see that your practitioner is meeting high standards and is continuing to improve the care they provide. When patients need emergency care at Holy Cross Hospital there will be a physician that is board certified by the American board of Emergency Medicine and there may also be additional coverage with a physician boarded in another specialty.

“I am very impressed with the quality of care our Emergency Department offers.” Said Dr. Marshall Vaskas. “We have an amazing group of doctors and nurses and everyone works together very closely and very well. We have a great team at Holy Cross Hospital.”

Beyond requiring that ED physicians are board certified, Holy Cross Hospital also offers a wide range of services that are not common in many rural areas. Holy Cross Hospital is part of a larger family of care referred to as Holy Cross Medical Center (HCMC). HCMC offers surgical specialists, pediatric care, OBGYNs, hospitalist physicians, and family medicine doctors. By offering these specialties, locals are not only able to access a wider range of care, but it also means that the emergency department doctors have the ability to easily consult with local specialists when necessary.

“Patients that require emergency care really benefit from the relationships that the ED doctors have with the other physicians in our healthcare family.” Said Dr. Marshall Vaskas.

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