John Nelson, MD, FACP, FHM, hasn't taken a medical test in more than 20 years. So when news began to spread last week that the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) soon will be offering a Recognition of Focused Practice (RFP) in Hospital Medicine certification, he started to get a little nervous.
"I will lose sleep the week before I take this test," says Dr. Nelson, co-founder and past president of SHM, and a principal in the practice management firm Nelson Flores Hospital Medicine Consultants. "This exam will help identify those who see this as a career. … Boy, there is nothing like a test to demonstrate professional centeredness."
The exam, likely to be available in the fall of 2010, will identify physicians who have "maintained their internal medicine certification focused in hospital medicine," according to the ABIM Web site.
"For those individuals [whose certificate] will be expiring in 2010 or 2011, this is a viable pathway for re-certification," says Eric Holmbloe, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer at ABIM. "Interested diplomats should be able to begin the application process in early 2010. We are feverishly working to complete the test and build the technology infrastructure. We should have more information available in about six weeks."
HM pioneers like Dr. Nelson consider the RFP designation a validation of decades-long efforts to carve a niche in medicine. The test will symbolize dedication to the specialty and provide HM physicians with professional self-regulation.
Scott Flanders, MD, FHM, president of SHM, terms the announcement a "watershed moment" for the field.
"I think this is a major, major moment for HM," says Dr. Flanders, who practices at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. "We've been looking at this for a long time. This validates the field, and the belief that HM is a positive [for the field of medicine]."
Dr. Nelson couldn't agree more. "This test is the first way hospitalists will be able to show their competence," he says. "I think it's a great opportunity. This will help people take our field more seriously."