With each new patient he sees, Dr. Trautwein is aware that that person is wary of seeing a new doctor rather than their own primary care physician.
“A lot of people are skeptical when they see a new [doctor]—especially a young doctor,” he explains. “Sometimes, I’ll start by trying to talk about something unconnected with their condition, to try to connect with them as a person. Getting patients to trust you is one of the more difficult parts of the job, but it can lead to one of the greatest satisfactions.”
As a hospitalist, Dr. Trautwein has a clear view of his role versus that of a primary care physician, and sees the value in being available to hospitalized patients.
“Primary care physicians are squeezed from every direction and can’t be around their patients in the hospital all the time,” he says. “Hospitalists get the patients’ attention; it’s not hard to drop back into someone’s room. For the patient, that’s important. They see that we care about them, and we can make the face-to-face contact with them that used to be impossible.”
Dr. Trautwein makes a special effort to see each patient as often as he can, and to share information with them.
“I try to think about it from the patient’s perspective,” he says. “The major thing that patients are hungry for in a hospital is communication.”
As for his ability to get tests scheduled on a weekend, he says that Cottage Hospital “is a pretty responsive hospital in general. I don’t spend a lot of time banging my head against the wall with them. If I talk to a person directly, in person or on the phone, they’ll respond. It is unusual to have tests done on the weekend, but it was also unusual to have a patient who needs them so much.”
Dr. Trautwein understands that a normal day’s work for a physician can mean a life-changing diagnosis for a patient. Orr and Cook understand it, too, but from their perspective, a hospitalist doing his job can lead to a miracle.
At the time this article was written, Orr had completed a round of radiation and was recuperating as she awaits further test results. Despite her ordeal and her pain, her outlook is as positive as her praise of hospitalists. Looking back on her experience at Cottage Hospital Santa Barbara and Dr. Trautwein’s role, she says, “The outcome of all this was my peace of mind as a patient. You can’t buy that in a hospital anywhere in America today.” TH
Contributor Jane Jerrard writes the “Hospital of the Future” series for The Hospitalist.