In an ideal world, the directors of hospitalist programs and residency programs would be perfectly aligned in their efforts to advance the hospital’s financial health, education initiatives, and quality of patient care. In reality, friction among them is common.
The roots of the tensions lie in their differing responsibilities.
“The goals for residency programs, which are governed by rules of the ACGME [Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education], don’t necessarily always match with those of the hospitalists for patient care delivery,” notes Alpesh Amin, MD, MBA, FACP, professor and chief, general internal medicine, executive director and founder of the hospitalist program at the University of California Irvine (UCI), and also associate program director of the UCI internal medicine residency program. Dr. Amin is also a member of SHM’s board of directors.
In teaching hospitals, residency program directors must ensure their residents comply with the ACGME work hour and patient load caps. These requirements limit residents to an 80-hour workweek and continuous on-site duty no longer than 24 consecutive hours, and multiresident internal medicine teams to no more than 24 patients at a time.
Compliance can pressure house staff hospitalists to pick up the slack. In addition, to advance the educational mission, a residency program director might want to have his or her residents read three hours a day. But the hospitalist, charged with caring for as many patients as possible, may want residents on his or her service to spend that time admitting, managing, and discharging patients.
William Iobst, MD, designated institutional official at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., and associate program director of the hospital medicine program, knows these issues firsthand. “The conflict usually comes up in that most hospitalist programs are put in place to provide streamlined and efficient service in the hospital,” he says. “To that end, they have targeted goals of improving efficiency, reducing length of stay, and using their expertise in repetitive treatments of the same condition [such as congestive heart failure or pneumonia] over time.”
Hospitalists, says Dr. Iobst, “get very efficient at providing care. In some ways, asking a hospitalist to serve as an educator potentially disrupts that charge of efficiency, quality, and rapid transit through the hospital. So, they may be put in a position of having conflicting bosses.”
—Alpesh Amin, MD, MBA, FACP, professor and chief, general internal medicine, executive director and founder of the hospitalist program at the University of California Irvine
Some hospitalists work in both worlds: They serve as associate program directors for residency programs as well as directors of hospitalist programs. This can set the stage for conflicts.
Such is the case with Michael Pistoria, DO, chief of the division of hospital medicine at Lehigh Valley Hospital and associate program director for the free-standing medicine residency program.
“There are times when something in one area is impacting—sometimes adversely—the other areas for which I’m responsible,” he says. “One big issue that we really struggle with is how to deal with the [sometimes overwhelming] volume of patients when residents are able to do less and less according to ACGME rules.”
This is especially tricky, he says, when mapping coverage for overnight shifts. Not only are residents’ work hours capped, but the Residency Review Committee (RRC), which provides ACGME oversight, also stipulates that residents must have continuity with patients. They are not supposed to admit patients who won’t be seen by a resident the next day. This can create tension between the resident and hospitalist programs—especially when the latter face high patient loads.