Which medical specialty has the most complex schedule?

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Emergency medicine departments balance the most complex sets of staffing rules and monthly requests of any specialty in the medical sector in the U.S., according to the 2016 Physician Scheduling Complexity by Specialty report from Lightning Bolt.

Researchers analyzed rules and requests used in 5,547 department schedules across 57 medical specialties.

According to the report, physician schedules in emergency departments apply an average of 62 repeating scheduling rules (for example, physicians can't work two 12-hour shifts back-to-back) and 276 monthly schedule requests. Such requests are not pattern-based like rules, and can include vacation time or be used in staffing locum tenens or moonlighters with variable schedules.

In comparison, schedules for office-based physician specialties, such as primary care, pediatrics and nephrology, were less complicated.

Here are the top 11 most complex physician specialties to schedule, according to the report.

1. Emergency medicine

2. Hospital medicine


4. Pulmonology

5. Anesthesiology

6. Surgery

7. Radiology

8. Primary care

9. Cardiology

10. Pediatrics

11. Nephrology

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