The Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) and the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors (CORD) have developed this Model Curriculum as an educational resource. It is not intended to be a list of requirements which programs must adhere. Rather, we invite you to amend it or use it in any way that helps meet the educational mission of your own institution.
The first edition of this model curriculum, developed by SAEM in the early 1990's,was created to assist program directors in creating a functional curriculum in the face of an ever-expanding Core Content in Emergency Medicine document. Shortly after completion, the original model curriculum document was transferred to CORD for further development and maintenance. Since that time, the Core Content has been updated and many other treatment and diagnostic developments in Emergency Medicine have changed.
A major criticism of past editions of the Core Content has been that no component is weighted in terms of the importance of the topic to the overall curriculum and practice of our specialty. For example, myocardial infarction and obscure parasitic induced illnesses receive the same emphasis. Therefore, in this revision of the model curriculum, we have "weighted" each educational objective in order to assist residents in self-study efforts, program directors in utilization of limited formal curriculum time, and CME planners in program planning. We propose that residents develop "mastery", "proficiency", or "familiarity"- as appropriate- with each educational objective. Our definitions of "mastery", "proficiency" and "familiarity" appear on the next page. We encourage program directors to edit and use this document in any way that helps meet the needs of their program. While we anticipate that this document may not prove useful for every training program, we sincerely hope that most of you find this updated model curriculum to be helpful.
The Model Curriculum Task Force consisted of SAEM representatives Steven Dronen MD and Scott Syverud MD, and CORD representatives Sam Keim MD and Carey Chisholm MD. Louis Ling MD served as the Task Force Chair. We are indebted to the assistance of Pat Miller at SAEM for her administrative assistance in this project.
The above quote, attributed to an anonymous program director, reflects the frustration many program directors have felt with the process of curriculum development. This frustration is compounded when programs are cited for the lack of an adequate curriculum. Some may view the focus on curriculum development as a symptom of bureaucratic excess. An alternate and more plausible view is that ultimately residency programs will be stronger if based on well thought-out educational blueprints. While it is tempting to fantasize that the right mix of patients, faculty and residents will result in a strong program, often this is not the case. It is particularly challenging to develop strong educational programs in Emergency Medicine (EM). EM faculty are in large part inexperienced educators. Most EM programs are young and many have been accredited just within the past few years. The subject material is extremely broad and the clinical experiences are fragmented. Success under such circumstances generally demands a prospective, carefully thought-out plan of action. In the world of education, this plan is called a curriculum.
"Curriculum" is defined in the Dictionary of Education as "a general over-all plan of the content or specific materials of instruction that the school should offer the student by way of qualifying the student for graduation or certification." Thus the curriculum is the road map that explains how the medical school graduate will ultimately develop into a skilled emergency medicine specialist.
It is important to note that curriculum is defined as an educational plan rather than an all-inclusive list. The quality of a curriculum is judged by the amount of information it conveys rather than the number of trees that were sacrificed in its production. Unfortunately, some programs respond to the uncertainty surrounding curriculum development by producing several hundred page documents that are exhaustively detailed, yet fail to adequately describe the educational program about which they are written. This may reflect an incomplete understanding of the role the curriculum should play in a residency program.
This manual was written to offer practical advice to program directors struggling with writing and using their curricula. Unlike most publications on the subject of curriculum development, this manual was not written by education theorists but by emergency physicians who are also educators. The goal was to produce a readable and reasonable document, devoid of technical jargon, that would discuss the essentials of what is needed and why it is needed. It is not intended to be an all encompassing treatise on curriculum development. There are many other excellent references on this subject, and several are listed in the bibliography.