“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.