Whether obligatory or voluntary, service on committees is a reality for most hospitalists. “The 2005-2006 SHM Survey: State of the Hospital Medicine Movement” found that, for 92% of respondents, committee participation topped the list of non-clinical activities.1 Hospital medicine group leaders, consultants, and administrators interviewed for this article say time-pressed hospitalists must become more effective committee participants.
Civic Duty or Career Advancement?
Because of growing presence at the hospital and their knowledge of hospital operations, hospitalists are a logical choice for committee assignments. These can range from committees dedicated to care delivery (e.g., pharmacy and therapeutics) to the hospital board’s governance committees.
“Hospitalists, with their perspective of hospital operations and clinical care, could be a great part of broadening the perspective of the board, informing their decision-making and helping them to formulate policies,” says John Combes, MD, president of the Center for Healthcare Governance in Chicago, a subsidiary committee of the American Hospital Association.
Mark V. Williams, MD, professor of medicine and director, Emory Hospital Medicine Unit in Atlanta, and editor in chief of the Journal of Hospital Medicine, does not consider committee participation optional.
“I strongly encourage—if not almost require—all of the hospitalists in our group to be involved in at least one committee,” says Dr. Williams. “My belief is that hospitalists are integral to the functioning of the hospital, and as part of their responsibility, they need to be actively involved in committee work to move projects forward.”
Leslie Flores, MHA, co-principal of Nelson/Flores Associates, LLC, agrees. “It’s in the hospitalists’ best interest to be involved in committees,” she says. “Hospitalists are often in the best position to see what needs to be fixed, and they have the potential to have a significant impact on how effectively their hospital operates, which can make their own jobs easier.”
Further, she points out, “If the hospital, which is financially supporting them, is more successful and effective, there’s likely to be less financial pressure on their practice.”
Hospitalists’ perceptions about committee participation can be influenced by each hospitalist’s employment model. If one is working directly for the hospital and giving 110% to that employer, being asked to volunteer additional time to serve on a committee might be viewed as a burden. On the other hand, an independent hospital medicine group (HMG) contracting with the hospital to deliver services may view committee participation as an avenue for ensuring the group’s success. Whatever the employment model, and whatever the career goals of individual hospitalists, it often pays to target one’s participation in committees.
—John Combes, MD, president of the Center for Healthcare Governance, a subsidiary committee of the American Hospital Association.
Make Participation Count
Hospitalists will be playing more key roles in medical staff leadership, according to William D. Atchley Jr., MD, medical director of the Division of Hospital Medicine for Sentara Medical Group in Hampton, Va. His concern is that hospitalists will be asked to serve on more than one or two committees. He advises younger hospitalists to notify the president of the medical staff of which committees they would be interested in working on. Dr. Atchley is also a member of the SHM Board of Directors.
“It could be peer review, performance improvement, or ad hoc committees focused on developing evidence-based order sets, improving through-put or disaster preparedness,” says Dr. Atchley. Whatever the pick, “it should be something that they’re going to find enjoyable and that they feel will advance their stature within the hospital.”