David Yu, MD, learned early on the value of being flexible. While attending Washington University in St. Louis, he found his calling when he changed his major from economics to biology. When the malpractice insurance crisis forced him to close his private practice, he embraced an opportunity to launch a program devoted to the “newfangled concept” of hospital medicine.
“I’m kind of like the accidental tourist,” says Dr. Yu, medical director of hospitalist services at the 372-bed Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur, Ill., and clinical assistant professor of family and community medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Carbondale. “I didn’t really go to college with the mind-set of being a doctor, and when I became a doctor, there was no such thing as a hospitalist. … I went where the current took me and, fortunately, here I am.”
Question: What prompted the switch from economics to pre-med/biology?
Answer: When I got to the upper-level econ classes, I realized why the economy is the way it is: because nobody can understand how it works. My sister was in medical school. She really liked it and she talked me into it.
Q: You spent nine years in traditional practice. Why did you become a hospitalist?
A: In 2004, my malpractice insurance rate shot up 400% without any active lawsuits, so I had to close my practice. I had the choice of joining another traditional group, or Decatur (Memorial Hospital) was starting a new hospitalist program. To quote “The Godfather,” they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Q: How did your experience in traditional practice prepare you for your role as a hospitalist?
A: I had been surrounded by incredible specialists. I saw how they interacted with me and how they treated my patients. As hospitalists, we are serving our patients, but really our clientele is the physicians we admit for. When I made the switch, I really had an idea of how a hospitalist should serve traditional practice.
Q: What is that service model?
A: It comes down to what I call the three A’s: You have to be available, you have to be able, and you have to be amicable. One of the problems in our field is a lot of hospitalists complain they’re treated like residents. They say they don’t get respect. They feel mistreated. That’s the wrong attitude. You can’t just ask for respect or demand it. You have to develop relationships.
Q: When Decatur’s hospitalist program started, you were on your own. Now there are seven physicians, two physician assistants, and a practice manager. How rewarding has it been to see it grow?
We have to find ways to help hospitalists take more ownership in their patients and their program. … With our schedule, you can’t pawn off your responsibility to the nocturnist or the weekend guy.
—David Yu, MD, Decatur (Ill.)
A: It’s been very rewarding. I’m honored to have been chosen as a member of Team Hospitalist, and I’m honored to be a committee member for SHM’s Non-Physician Provider Committee. Those are personal honors, but they are reflections on the success of the program. It’s an honor for the entire Decatur Memorial Hospital, and the administration, that a program started four and a half years ago, indirectly, has received national recognition.
Q: You implemented a one-week-on, one-week-off schedule for your hospitalists as a way to decrease signouts. How did that come about?
A: Signouts have been the bane of medical mistakes. Instead of having signouts twice a day, we have one physician on call for that entire week for his or her patients. It’s patient-centric versus schedule-centric. Physicians leave the hospital when their work is done, instead of looking at the clock and waiting to sign out at a certain time like a factory worker. It treats hospitalists not as shift workers but as attending physicians. It gives them due respect that they can manage their own patients responsibly.