Although Dr. Gundersen recognizes that this problem is unavoidable at times, he suggests it would help “if the ED physicians were cognizant that there may be just one or two hospitalists who are admitting for the day, and giving them five admissions all at once, for instance, is going to take time to get through.”
On the other side, “Hospitalists rely on ED physicians to have the patient worked up and know which service they belong to,” explains Dr. Gundersen. “Succinct transfer of care is [paramount] so that critical information is brought to the attention of the accepting physician.” For the most part, he says, his ED colleagues do a good job.
Because the ED is always in a rush to get patients admitted and a disposition made, “there is the tendency to hamstring what’s happening on the floor. I think that big downstream effect from everything that begins in the ER transitions through the patient’s whole length of stay in the hospital,” says Dr. Gundersen.
All the interviewed hospitalists realize that the hospitalists and ED physicians need to have an understanding of what the other group faces. “We have to be understanding of the ER position that there are a lot of patients to be seen, and they’re trying to do the best they can in that period of time,” says Dr. Gundersen. A 2006 study revealed that interruptions within the ED were prevalent and diverse in nature and—on average—there was an interruption every nine and 14 minutes, respectively, for the attending emergency medicine physicians and residents.5
“And ED physicians have to realize that whatever patient they give to us, we then deal with,” says Dr. Gundersen, “and we [continue] to deal with all the issues, moving them through tests and studies [and] getting them discharged, so sometimes there are delays on both ends. It’s just the nature of the beast.”
A Sense of Control
The benefits of maintaining collegiality with ED physicians go beyond the norm, says Jeff Glasheen, MD, director of both the hospital medicine program and inpatient clinical services in the department of medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver Health Sciences Center. Dr. Glasheen has conducted some research on burnout—mostly in residents.6-7
“One of the main things that leads to burnout is lack of control and feeling like you don’t have control over your daily job,” he says. “One of the things that comes out of this relationship with the ER is that it’s no longer like someone’s just dumping on us. They’re very reasonable when we say, ‘That sounds like somebody who could go home; let me come down and see the patient, and let’s see if we can get this patient discharged.’ You begin to feel like you have control over your day, control over the patients who are admitted to you, and—quite honestly—it’s more fun. That kind of professional interaction is hard to put a price on, but I think it’s priceless.”TH
Andrea Sattinger is a frequent contributor to The Hospitalist.
- Kellermann AL. Crisis in the emergency department. N Engl J Med. 2006 Sep 28;355(13):1300-1303.
- Burt CW, McCaig LF. Staffing, capacity, and ambulance diversion in emergency departments: United States, 2003-04. Adv Data. 2006 Sep 27;(376):1-23. Available at www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad376.pdf. Last accessed April 10, 2007.
- Freed DH. Hospitalists: evolution, evidence, and eventualities. Health Care Manag. 2004 Jul-Sep;23(3):238-256;1-38.
- McCaig LF, Burt CW. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2003 emergency department summary. Adv Data. 2005;(358):1-38. Available at www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad358.pdf. Last accessed April 10, 2007.
- Laxmisan A, Hakimzada F, Sayan OR, et al. The multitasking clinician: decision-making and cognitive demand during and after team handoffs in emergency care. Int J Med Inform. 2006 Oct 21. [Epub ahead of print.]
- Gopal RK, Carreira F, Baker WA, et al. Internal medicine residents reject “longer and gentler” training. J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Jan;22(1):102-106.
- Gopal R, Glasheen JJ, Miyoshi TJ, et al. Burnout and internal medicine resident work-hour restrictions. Arch Intern Med. 2005 Dec 12-26;165(22):2595-2600. Comment in Arch Intern Med. 2005 Dec 12-26; 165(22):2561-2562. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jul 10;166(13):1423; author reply 1423-1425.