Sutharsanam Veerappan, MD, a pediatric hospitalist, learned while on a family vacation to India that his New Jersey hospital had chosen him as 2008's Physician of the Year. So he did what anyone 7,000 miles from work would do: He cut short the family time to receive an honor from his other family.
"Dr. Veerappan just gets it," says Jeanne Whaley, RN, manager of the Maternity and Newborn Care Center at Hunterdon Medical Center (HMC) in Raritan Township, N.J. "He understands what it means to be a team."
HMC nurses say honoring a hospitalist is a testament to how comfortable the staff is with having a full-time hospitalist to rely on, as opposed to the pre-HM model of private-practice doctors making rounds.
Dr. Veerappan, medical director for newborn and pediatric services, is a familiar face in the maternity ward, as well as the pediatrics and emergency departments. He's known for bringing in coffee cake in the mornings, pizza on busy days, and even making accommodations for nursing staff to attend conferences.
Hospitalists aren't "always dashing out to the office," says Ardath Youngblood, RN, MN, a perinatal educator at HMC. "There's a depth of relationship that develops sometimes with a hospitalist because they're around more and available more. It definitely builds teamwork."
—Sutharsanam Veerappan, MD
For his part, Dr. Veerappan shies away from the attention he's been given for receiving the award. He is proud of the accomplishment, but he still views HM as a team sport that involves nurses and physicians from other departments. Still, he acknowledges his constant presence in the hospital affords him advantages in working with both staff and patients.
"The communication is the key part here," Dr. Veerappan says. "When [nurses or patients] have questions, we just show up in the room and answer them."