Hospitalists Can Help Alleviate Intensivist Shortage

Creating a sanctioned pathway to turn hospitalists into intensivists can help fill the growing shortage of trained physicians in ICUs, according to a new position paper from SHM and the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

"Training a Hospitalist Workforce to Address the Intensivist Shortage in American Hospitals," published online in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, suggests that if 5% of the projected hospitalist workforce were to complete a critical-care certification pathway created by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), 2,500 new intensivists could enter hospitals in the coming years.

"The ICU is in crisis because of the workforce shortage," says Mary Jo Gorman, MD, MBA, MHM, CEO of St. Louis-based Advanced ICU Care and former SHM president. "It’s only going to get worse. [Hospitalists] need to be strategically trying to figure out how they are going to solve this problem. This is one of the calls for action that we think can really help the problem across the country. It won’t be 100% of the solution, but we think it can contribute to the solution."

Lead author Eric Siegal, MD, SFHM, director of critical care medicine at Aurora St Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee and a SHM board member, says it may take years to craft a formal pathway to accredit HM physicians in critical care, but the task is important as hospitalists already are being pressed into duty as intensivists.

"The real question is, how do we ensure that the hospitalists who are in those hospitals are qualified to handle the work that they already perform?" he says. "Hospitalists are de facto intensivists in many ICUs, whether they are qualified to do so or not … so this seems like a logical evolution of HM."

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