Younger generations blaze new paths through the American economy. Fifteen years ago, Generation X was fresh out of college and flush with the unimagined potential of the Internet. They helped change the way the world shared information and conducted business. The impact of such innovation and enthusiasm for new technology is still felt today.
The healthcare sector possesses pioneers of its own, many with the same kind of drive and vision as the dot-com entrepreneurs of the 1990s. Fifteen years from now, today’s young hospitalists—shaped by ever-changing demands and healthcare hurdles—will be recognized as an authority in the new ways patient care is delivered.
—Brian Markoff, MD, FHM, associate professor of medicine, Mount Sinai Hospitalist Group, New York City
Bijo Chacko, MD, FHM, former chair of SHM’s Young Physicians Committee, sees energy in the newest generation of hospitalists. He also sees great potential from residents who are finishing their training and considering their job options. Until recently, SHM’s Young Physicians Committee operated as a task force. The group’s growth and increased young-physician representation throughout the society prompted SHM leadership to promote the task force to full committee status.
“The wonderful thing is that we have received lots of input from around the country and dramatically increased membership in the past few years,” says Dr. Chacko, hospital medicine medical director for Preferred Health Partners in New York City. “We have moved from simply gathering information about young physicians in hospital medicine to actively disseminating it, including the new Resident’s Corner [department in The Hospitalist]. It addresses the needs of residents and introduces them to the nuances and specifics of hospital medicine.”
The demand for information has spurred the launch of a young physicians section (www.hospitalmedicine.org/youngdoctor) on SHM’s Web site. Combined with SHM’s online career center (www.hospitalmedicine.org/careercenter), the new microsites provide young physicians a broad range of information about the specialty and—most importantly—HM career options.
Four out of five large hospitals now use hospitalists, and as more hospitals implement HM programs, more residents will be exposed to the hospitalist model of care. For residents, the allure of an HM career is broad and deep. In many ways, HM is the logical extension of residency training. Brian Markoff, MD, FHM, a hospitalist and associate professor of medicine at Mount Sinai Hospitalist Group in New York City, was a chief resident when he founded the hospitalist program at the University of California at Davis Health System in Sacramento in 1998.
“Creating the hospitalist program at UC-Davis was pretty easy,” Dr. Markoff says. “All of the program’s founders were chief residents at the time. The people involved were warm to the idea, and we could teach without being in the fellowship program. Residents are already very comfortable treating patients in the hospital setting.”
Dr. Markoff says practicing hospitalists are a positive influence on residents who are still undecided on a career path. “If you’re a good role model, they’ll be interested in hospital medicine,” he says.
Diversity of Patients, Issues, Settings
Dr. Markoff and others caution that HM encompasses more than an expansion of a resident’s standard roles and responsibilities. “We’re not just super-residents,” he says. “We’re highly trained specialists in the care of hospitalized patients and the process of making care in hospital better.”
Medical conditions, patient issues, and administrative situations that often are outside a resident’s scope quickly come into focus for a new hospitalist. When Mona Patel, DO, associate director of hospitalist services at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, chose an HM career five years ago, the diversity in opportunities was a major draw. Like many hospitalists, she knew she would enjoy the type of care she provides to patients.
“I liked the acuity of the patients and disease processes; it was much more interesting and exciting for me than ongoing outpatient care of chronic diseases,” Dr. Patel says. “I liked the interaction with the hospital house staff and lots of consultants. If I had questions about a patient, I could easily consult with a specialist within the hospital.”
In addition to providing bedside care, new hospitalists often find themselves at the forefront of a monumental change in how healthcare is provided nationwide. Quality improvement (QI) initiatives, such as reducing preventable diseases in the hospital and reducing readmission rates, attracted Bryan Huang, MD, to hospital medicine at the University of California at San Diego.
“When I interviewed at UCSD, I was very interested in quality improvement,” says Dr. Huang, an assistant clinical professor at UCSD’s Division of Hospital Medicine. “UCSD is well known for glycemic control and VTE prophylaxis. We’re now working on quality improvement for treating delirium and hospital discharge.”
His experience as an academic hospitalist has opened up the QI world to him. “Before this job, I was almost not familiar at all with quality improvement,” Dr. Huang says. “As a resident, I did some quality-improvement work, but not much. Quality improvement was missing from residency training, but it’s getting better.”
Dr. Patel says HM’s biggest selling point is the variety of settings available to a new hospitalist. She’s been working for the past two years in an academic hospital program in a community hospital setting with 20 hospitalists. Before that, she worked in private practice as a hospitalist. Now, when she talks with residents, she talks about their options.
“It’s really important that you figure out what kind of setting you want,” Dr. Patel says. “Hospital medicine has a diversity of settings, from a small community hospital where you do a broad range of inpatient care to a larger academic teaching environment or a private practice group.”
The continuing demand for hospitalists affords young physicians who are considering an HM career additional freedom in the job market. In comparison to more traditional primary-care models, hospitalist jobs offer flexible hours and competitive salaries.
Dr. Chacko points to another benefit that is a direct result of the high demand for hospitalists: increased opportunities to launch management careers. The average age of a hospitalist is 37 and the average age of an HM group leader is 41, according to SHM’s 2007-2008 Bi-Annual Survey on the State of the Hospital Medicine Movement.
“That’s not that much of a difference,” Dr. Chacko says. “Early-career hospitalists find ample leadership opportunities in the specialty. There are lots of opportunities for young hospitalists.”
How to Get Started
Because most teaching hospitals have hospitalists, most residents are exposed to HM. Many hospitalists relish the opportunity to mentor and provide early-career counseling. “Sometimes, a resident will ask to grab coffee and learn more about hospital medicine,” Dr. Huang says. “I tell them what my job is like. Many ask, ‘How do I get started looking for a job?’ I tell them that connections really help. Word of mouth is very important, so I refer people to other people.”
Margaret Fang, MD, MPH, FHM, assistant professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco’s division of hospital medicine and a founding member of the Young Physicians Committee, recommends that residents begin with a vision and work backward. “On a broad level, if you’re a resident, you should think about where you want to be in five years,” she says. “Look around your hospital and find a few people whose job you want.”
For some young physicians, looking ahead five years could mean being part of the healthcare revolution of tomorrow. TH
Brendon Shank is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.
SHM elects board members
SHM has elected three new members to its Board of Directors and re-elected two members. Board members are nominated and elected by the membership and serve a three-year term.The newly elected members of the board are: