As a hospitalist, patient satisfaction is top of mind. Then there’s another group of people whose satisfaction is also paramount: your family. What do they have to say about life with a hospitalist? You’re about to find out!
The Hospitalist asked family members of David Pressel, MD, PhD, a pediatric hospitalist at A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., and a former member of Team Hospitalist, for their impressions, and wife Karen and son Rob’s honest answers (and gentle ribbings) show that for whatever ups and downs life may bring, being part of a hospitalist’s family is full of rewards and lots of love. Of course, that’s not to say they didn’t have some suggestions for improvements.
For Hospitalists’ Spouses Everywhere
Marrying a doctor was never on my to-do list. In fact, my list specified quite the opposite; I was never going to marry a physician. My stereotypical perception of the lives of physicians included long hours, too much stress, no family time, guaranteed interruptions at social events, calls at all hours of the day, never enough sleep—you get the picture. I imagined too many headaches to make being a “doctor’s wife” in the slightest bit enticing. I wanted no part of it, and besides, I had my own career to think about.
But then I met my husband, and my list went out the window.
Still, after a couple decades of negotiating a balance between the demands of his job (see above) and the demands of his family, there are things I’d like to say to him. So here goes. Hospitalists, take note.
There Are Only 24 Hours in a Day
How many times have you called to say, “I’ll be leaving the hospital in 10 minutes”? How long did it take for me to realize that relying on that kind of statement was crazy? I’m embarrassed to say that it took me way longer than it should have to come to that understanding. After many overcooked dinners and missed social events, I finally realized that your anticipated departure held no validity and I could only trust that you had left the hospital when you called from the car with the wheels rolling. Fortunately, you were more astute than I and changed your communication habits rather quickly, although the timing of said notifications still does not always take traffic into account and could use some work.
Still, I recognize that “leaving the hospital” is really just a physical indicator of your location, not necessarily a reflection of your state of mind. When you get home, please tell me if you still have work to do (notes, email, patient follow-up) or if you are done for the day. I suppose second-guessing your clinical decisions and calling the hospital to check on patients are unavoidable, but give me a clue whether I should actually expect you fully home to join the rest of the family—or if you will just be working at the home “nursing station” all evening. The burden of healthcare in America doesn’t fall on just you. If you can’t figure out what is wrong with a patient or don’t know what to do, you have many colleagues who can help.
Please remember that you are only one person. Don’t think that if there is a staffing shortage to fill, the responsibility for working is yours. Your colleagues are wonderful and, almost without exception, are happy to pitch in to help carry the extra load. The same goes with holidays; you don’t need to work more than everyone else. I know you are not a slacker. If you try to spread the load when you manage patient care and work schedules, you will have a happier spouse. Remember, a happy wife is a happy life. (I’m sure there is an analogous saying for your colleagues’ husbands and partners.)