In addition to being expert in acute care clinical issues, hospitalists are knowledgeable in the ways and means of the hospital.
As teachers, hospitalists are ideally situated to improve house staff’s proficiency in areas such as evidence-based medicine, effective teamwork, communication, and quality improvement.1 These areas meld with hospitalist core competencies, writes David M. Pressel, MD, PhD, director of Inpatient Service and General Pediatrics at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.
What makes a great hospitalist a great teacher? “I don’t think there is anything special about a hospitalist [that would make him or her] a great teacher as opposed to another kind of physician,” Dr. Pressel says. “The only caveat to that is that presumably the hospitalist has specialized knowledge that they can impart similarly to [how] another doc can [impart information] in their specialized knowledge.”
Good teaching in all specialties has the same core features. But the key component a hospitalist would want to impart, he says, is that the hospitalist should maintain a holistic view of the patient.
In Dr. Pressel’s view, a great teacher loves what he does, has a sense of humor and makes learning fun or enjoyable, makes his lessons interactive, continually learns alongside his students, and knows his strengths and weaknesses.
“A great teacher has a sense of self-awareness as to what they do well and what they don’t do well,” he says. “Some people can be dynamic speakers for a mass audience and hold a lecture hall of 200 in thrall, but one on one, they’re not that strong. Others are the opposite. It is easy to teach people who are smart, dynamic, and interested; it is more challenging for someone who is a bit slower and [finds it] harder to get it.”
A good teacher also models for his trainees, especially in more delicate conversations, such as when giving bad news or asking patients and families to make difficult decisions.
“Residents should be watching you have those kinds of conversations,” says Howard Epstein, MD, a hospitalist and the medical director of the palliative care program at Regions Hospital, St. Paul, Minn. “[Rather than saying], ‘I’m just going to go have a family conference so why don’t you go take care of this, that, and the other thing,’ we should be saying, ‘This is really important. You need to come in and watch me do this now. This is just as important as putting in those discharge orders or putting in that central line.’ ”