Medicolegal Issues

New Task Forces Formed


Always searching for new ways to enhance the value of SHM membership, the SHM Membership Committee has created several task forces to work on special projects.

Designed to build upon the success of the Annual Meeting’s Mentorship Breakfast (a one-time opportunity for SHM members to meet with experienced hospitalist clinicians and leaders), the Mentorship Task Force was convened to study opportunities to expand the use of mentoring programs for SHM members. The task force has suggested mechanisms on how to assist SHM local chapter leaders, suggestions that have resulted in the creation of recurrent conference calls between members of the Midwest Region Council and local chapter leaders in the Midwest. The Task Force has also studied creating a yearlong longitudinal mentoring program on leadership skills and continues to work on this project.

SHM Trivia

How many hospitalists worked in North America in the 1990s?

Answer: 800

The Industry Support of Local Chapters Task Force is critically looking at the role of industry sponsorship of local chapter activities. This task force (comprising participants from the SHM Ethics and Membership Committees, Regional Councils, and local chapters) is studying two issues:

  1. How to assist local leaders in finding and securing sponsorship for chapter functions, and
  2. How to create a process to review industry sponsored grants to support local chapter meetings.

Preliminary recommendations from this task force include additions and revisions to the SHM Local Chapter Handbook about strategies and techniques to employ when negotiating with industry representatives.

Please take a moment to renew your membership if you have not already, or visit to join our growing ranks.

Finally, the Family Practice Task Force was recently convened to study how family practice hospitalists differ from their internal-medicine-trained colleagues. Initial efforts will focus on gathering data about family-practice-trained hospitalists, defining the unique skill set that family practice has to offer hospital medicine, and reviewing the post-graduate medical training needs of family practitioner hospital medicine physicians.

In addition to these task forces, the Membership Committee will launch a new research initiative. During 2006 SHM members will be invited to share their opinions on a variety of topics via electronic surveys. Data from each survey will be regularly shared with SHM leadership for review and use in future planning.

Your support of SHM has played a vital role in helping the society to assume the leadership position that it currently holds in the hospital medicine community. Your continued support will enable us to continue to grow and provide each member with the tools they need to best serve their patients and grow their practices in the process.

As SHM has grown into a major force shaping healthcare policy, the need for transparency in all of the organization’s endeavors has never been greater.

Ethics Policies Revised

Real and potential conflicts addressed in revisions

By Tom Baudendistel, MD, FACP, chair, SHM Ethics Committee

Conflicts of interest have been the major theme of the SHM Ethics Committee this past year. As SHM has grown into a major force shaping healthcare policy, the need for transparency in all of the organization’s endeavors has never been greater. Rather than being reactive to individual issues that arise, the ethics committee has adopted a proactive stance in identifying potential areas of tension. Building on the general guidelines of the 2003 SHM “Principles for Organizational Relationships,” this year’s ethics committee has refined SHM policies to address the latest real and potential conflicts of interest in several areas: the Annual Meeting Abstract competitions, the Journal of Hospital Medicine, and the SHM Board.

Prior to the 2005 Annual Meeting, chairs of the Research, Innovations, and Vignettes (RIV) Committees augmented previous disclosure policy in requiring more transparent and detailed statements of disclosure from authors submitting abstracts to the national meeting. Anjala Tess, MD, and Sunil Kripilani, MD, took the lead in this initiative, preserving the integrity of the academic process while shielding the SHM RIV competition from potential misuse by third parties.

Later in 2005, in preparation for publication of the Journal of Hospital Medicine, the ethics committee worked with the editors to develop a policy regarding potential conflicts of interest between the journal’s editors, editorial board, reviewers, and authors. Ethical dilemmas within academic journals generally arise in two main areas: academic or financial. An example of the former would include an editor or a reviewer who might benefit from affiliation with the authors or from the publication of material contained in a manuscript. Financial conflicts might arise when, for instance, an editor or author receives monetary support from an industry source and selectively publishes only manuscripts that cast the sponsoring company in a favorable light.

Chapter Updates ONLINE

For additional information on SHM chapters visit and click on “Chapters.”

The SHM Ethics committee contacted editors from major journals, including Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine, and The American Journal of Medicine, and consulted the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors before crafting a policy for the Journal of Hospital Medicine’s Editorial Board. This policy directs JHM to obtain annual disclosure of potential academic and financial conflicts from its editors and editorial board members, and requests similar information from its authors and reviewers on an article-by-article basis. Thanks to Brian Harte, MD, and Don Krause, MD, for their leadership in this process.

More recently, the SHM Ethics Committee was asked to join the SHM Task Force to identify areas of potential conflict for the SHM Board. As leaders of a major organization in U.S. medical care, members of the board are obvious targets of outside interests including healthcare or pharmaceutical industry, legal associations, and other organizations to represent those outside parties’ viewpoints—either implicitly or explicitly. Should the leaders of SHM participate in malpractice litigation involving hospitalists? What restrictions should SHM place on its board members pertaining to relationships with outside academic and industry organizations? Should SHM accept funding from industry to support regional and national meetings? Should the SHM board endorse pay-for-performance initiatives? How should hospitalist scope of practice be defined?

If you are interested in joining a Membership Committee Task Force, please contact Todd Von Deak, director of membership, at

The answers to these and similar questions will guide SHM policy in the coming years, and the SHM Ethics Committee will be there every step of the way.

The SHM Ethics Committee is now 15 members strong and continues to convene regularly via conference calls and as a group at the Annual Meeting. Check out the recent article by Erin Egan, MD, in The Hospitalist discussing the safe and ethical care of disaster victims (Jan. 2006, p. 10), or attend the “Ethical Dilemmas in the ICU” talk at the upcoming critical care precourse at the Annual Meeting on May 3 at 9 a.m. to catch other glimpses of the committee’s work. With the continued support and membership from SHM members, the committee aims to chart a clear and ethically acceptable course for SHM for years to come.

To register for the 2006 Annual Meeting, as well as the mentorship breakfast, please visit Significant registration discounts are currently available by registering online.

Quality of Work-Life Tools

An interim report from the SHM Career Satisfaction Task Force

By Sylvia McKean, MD, Tosha Wetterneck, MD, and Win Whitcomb, MD

A variety of career satisfaction issues threaten the evolution of hospital medicine as a specialty. These issues are analogous to the experience of other, well-established specialties essential to the smooth functioning of a hospital, including critical care and emergency medicine.

Hospitalists encounter daily disruptions in their workflow due to the unpredictability of acute medical illness, paging interruptions that require immediate attention, and an increasing variety of other demands on their time in an already stressed healthcare system. In addition, hospitalist services staffed with junior physicians may not have input into the patients triaged to their service or how the service is structured. They may encounter changing job descriptions as hospital administrators in charge of their salaries rely upon them to solve important problems.

Hospitalists face conflict as they try to control their work life. The role of the hospitalist has evolved from direct patient care, to improving throughput and related outcomes, and increasingly to one of leadership, quality improvement, and teaching. The challenges of this discipline continue to expand exponentially. In addition, community hospitals rely upon academic hospitalist programs to train and recruit physicians into the field of hospital medicine. Academic hospitalist services, therefore, need to ensure time to mentor trainees and serve as role models that hospital medicine is a satisfying, respected, and sustainable career.

In 2005 SHM’s career satisfaction task force reviewed available literature and started developing a series of chapters relating to the following “domains” related to job satisfaction:

  • Control/autonomy;
  • Workload/schedule;
  • Reward/recognition; and
  • Community/environment.

These chapters acknowledge that on-the-job challenges should be viewed from two different but related perspectives: the individual hospitalist and the hospital medicine group/service. Neither the individual nor the hospitalist service can work independently of the other because cohesiveness among hospitalist members is critical to promoting job satisfaction for the service. The task force is developing a career satisfaction tool kit consisting of individual and group self-assessment questionnaires and preventive strategies. Specific case examples from the academic and community settings will be provided to avoid pitfalls and false starts when seeking a job in hospital medicine or when responding to pressures in the hospital.

SHM has also funded additional research into career satisfaction under the leadership of Tosha Wetterneck, MD, from the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinic. Joe Miller, SHM senior vice president, and professional writer Phyllis Hanlon have joined the Career Satisfaction Task Force to translate our findings into a workable document for physician leaders and hospitalists. They were the editors of the supplement to The Hospitalist on “value added services” of hospitalists (vol. 9, suppl. 1, 2005).

The goals of these papers are to assist hospital administrators and hospitalist services to recruit and retain hospitalists and to help individual hospitalists to find new, more rewarding employment opportunities. The document will include practical tools for self and program analysis. As more information becomes available through survey research results and focus group analysis, the tools will be refined.

The goals of the Career Satisfaction Task Force for 2006-2007 include:

  1. Complete the focused interviews;
  2. Complete the first draft of the SHM Career Satisfaction Tool Kit;
  3. Start the survey process at the 2006 SHM Annual Meeting;
  4. Hold a workshop at the SHM Annual Meeting;
  5. Utilize additional research data to modify the tool kit; and
  6. Position the tool kit as a working document for structuring hospitalist programs and as a self-assessment tool for practicing hospitalists. TH

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