The light at the end of the tunnel has arrived—finally. The long hours, scut work, and call nights have paid off; you’re an attending. The transition to the “real world” can be intimidating, especially when you’ve been in training for so long. Here are some tips to ease the transition.
1. Cultivate relationships. Your interactions with nurses, house staff, case managers, social workers, and your colleagues are even more important as an attending and will serve as the building blocks of your reputation. Diplomacy during times of conflict is invaluable. Your approach to resolving situations can further your career—or be a barrier to success.
In the beginning, you might be misidentified as a resident, so it’s important to introduce yourself and have regular conversations with colleagues and consultants until you are recognized and are on a first-name basis with them. Effective communication will go a long way with your patients, their families, and primary-care physicians (PCPs). The benefits of good communication include good Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores, less liability from lawsuits, safer hospital transitions and discharges, and a successful HM practice.
2. Learn the business of practice. The first year of practice will feature a steep learning curve in the areas of billing and documentation. Effective and appropriate billing is essential to maintaining the financial viability of a hospitalist group. Most HM groups provide formal training in billing and documentation as well as chart audits by billing experts. You may find it helpful to review “Billing and Coding” articles in The Hospitalist (also available at www.the-hospitalist.org).
Take time to learn business goals and areas in need of improvement, as this will allow you to improve individual and group performance. This may include maximizing pay for performance, improving hospital throughput by prioritizing discharges early in the morning, and reducing length of stay and readmission rates.
3. Seek work-life balance. Expect to be presented with multiple opportunities to get involved outside of your clinical duties. You could have the chance to participate in quality-improvement (QI) projects, teaching, hospital committees, and research. These activities will add to the depth of your curriculum vitae and give you a voice in hospital operations.
It’s important, however, to remember to pace yourself when you add duties outside the realm of your primary job responsibilities. Avoid spreading yourself too thin. As an attending, your work hours will be fewer and your salary will be better, but your responsibility will be greater. Be sure to set aside personal time and make job satisfaction a priority. More information is available in “A Challenge for a New Specialty: A White Paper on Hospitalist Career Satisfaction” (www.hospitalmedicine.org/dashboard), which outlines the pillars of career satisfaction: autonomy/workflow, workload/schedule, reward/recognition, and community/ environment.
4. Stay current. In addition to reading prominent journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Hospital Medicine, look to newer resources that screen up-to-date literature for articles most relevant to hospitalists. American College of Physicians (ACP) members can sign up for ACP Journal Club Plus (acpjc.org), which provides periodic e-mail alerts when new articles meet customized quality and relevance filters. The Hospitalist has a monthly column, “In the Literature,” (see p. 9) that summarizes recent medical research. It also is important to understand how to find evidence-based information quickly. Familiarize yourself with Medline searches and pre-appraised literature resources, such as the Cochrane database, the print version of ACP Journal Club, and guidelines.gov.
5. Be efficient and thorough. Time-management skills are critical as an attending, especially when you’re being pulled in multiple directions. Develop a “to do” list to stay organized. When you are working with nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and residents, delegate certain duties to maximize your own efficiency. Their notes often can be used to assist with documentation, but remember to properly chart the clinical rationale for critical decisions and document medical stability on the day of patient discharge. Be sure you regularly review primary data, such as imaging, culture results, and consultant recommendations. Routinely communicate with PCPs—a prompt, real-time discharge summary is easiest when the information is fresh in your mind, and it ensures proper follow-up care.