Practice Economics

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Early-Career Hospitalists Spark Growth in On-Site Night Coverage


They have grown up in an era of reality television and hyperbolic politics. They prefer news alerts and fantasy football on their handhelds to daily newspapers and leather-bound novels. They text, they text, they text.

The generation known as millennials—those who were born in the years 1982 to 1995—is a breed unto itself. Millennials have grown up in the information age, are adept with new technologies, and have been trained under the umbrella of duty-hour guidelines that protect both the patient and the physician.

So when you hire a millennial for your hospitalist group, you’d better be clear about your expectations. “Millennials are looking for jobs that provide flexibility—time with family, time with friends, time to do other things,” says Troy Ahlstrom, MD, FHM, CFO of Traverse City-based Hospitalists of Northern Michigan and a member of SHM’s Practice Analysis committee. “There is nothing wrong with that, except that the baby boomers look at millennials and say, ‘Gosh, you slugs don’t want to work.’ ”

Dr. Ahlstrom says the influx of millennials into HM in recent years has had a significant impact on group administration—namely, an increase in use of 24/7 on-site coverage. The State of Hospital Medicine: 2010 Report Based on 2009 Data shows 68% of hospitalist groups provide on-site coverage at night. SHM’s 2007-2008 survey data showed only 53% of HM groups provided on-site coverage at night; the 2005-2006 figure was 51%. (Although the 2010 report includes a small percentage of truly academic hospitalist groups and, therefore, probably pushes the on-site coverage a little higher than in past years, Dr. Ahlstrom says he expects the trend toward on-site coverage at night to continue in the near future.)

“Baby boomers are perfectly fine with the idea of working more. They grew up working those horrifically long shifts, 36 hours straight,” Dr. Ahlstrom says. “The millennials would rather have clearly defined shifts, with nocturnists around to work the nights. Or maybe they get to be the nocturnist and work the nights. That’s the trend with younger physicians: They are more interested in seeing that split, where the days and nights are clearly set off.”

Then again, not all physicians, young or old, are against the idea of working long hours. And plenty of well-seasoned physicians are more than happy to have a nocturnist around, “but not if it’s going to cost them a lot of money or productivity,” Dr. Ahlstrom says.

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