When I was a kid I remember saying that “ain’t ain’t a word because ain’t ain’t in the dictionary.” I just found “ain’t” in my online dictionary, which warned against using “ain’t” because it “does not form a part of standard English and should not be used in formal contexts.”
If the dictionary is the final arbiter of what is and is not a word, then finally “hospitalist” is a word (as we reported last month, see Nov. The Hospitalist, p. 17). Of course we have been using the word since Bob Wachter and Lee Goldman first coined it in their paper in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1996.1 But the 2005 update of the Eleventh Edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a “hospitalist” as “a physician who specializes in treating hospitalized patients of other physicians in order to minimize the number of hospital visits by other physicians.”
While I am delighted that our specialty is in the dictionary, I would argue that the role of a hospitalist is about more than saving other physicians’ commute time. In fact SHM published an entire supplement that catalogued the many roles of hospitalists and how we add value.2 But even if the dictionary didn’t get the definition quite right, the presence of the word hospitalist is yet more evidence of the increasing importance and growth of our field. I want to share with you some of the exciting projects that the SHM is working on to further define our field.
We have been in discussion with the American Board of Internal Medicine and other societies that represent important interests in internal medicine regarding board certification for hospitalists. At this point I cannot tell you what certification will look like, how it will be conferred, or when it will come about; however, SHM is committed to developing a process that recognizes the expertise and experience of hospitalists and supports high quality care for patients. As you might imagine, any process of certification for hospitalists has huge implications for all physicians who practice internal medicine, and we are working to consider these issues carefully as we move ahead. Board certification, and the process of making it come about, marks another step along the path in the maturing of our field.
Journal of Hospital Medicine and Research
More evidence of our growth as a field is the coming publication of the Journal of Hospital Medicine. Under the editorship of Mark Williams, MD, the journal will be the first dedicated to hospital medicine and the care of hospitalized patients. I still remember the early discussions at the SHM Board of Directors meetings where we first discussed having a journal. At the time there were only three or four hospitalist researchers and our major concern was whether there would be sufficient content to fill a journal once let alone six or more times a year; however, at the time we also saw where our field was headed. We knew that in order to continue to define the field of hospital medicine a journal was key.
Perhaps our decision several years ago was hubris, perhaps it was blind optimism, but I like to think it was faith in our members and our society and a belief that hospital medicine was here to stay and would only get bigger. Next month SHM will proudly publish the first volume of the Journal of Hospital Medicine. I am happy to report that we have plenty of high quality content to fill the journal. Our field has continued to expand and with it more and more researchers are focusing on hospital medicine. One walk around the poster session at our annual meeting is enough to demonstrate all of the outstanding academic work that hospitalists at academic centers and community hospitals are doing.