I encounter a lot of hospitalists who complain that the other doctors at their hospital think of hospitalists as second-class citizens, as sort of like career residents. HM program directors need to make sure that is not the case for the hospitalists in their practice.
SHM has worked with the AMA’s Organized Medical Staff Section to assess the perception of hospitalists by primary-care physicians (PCPs) and hospitalists themselves. When asked in a 2009 survey, “Do you agree or disagree that hospitalists are respected members of the medical staff at a hospital?” only 3 out of 4 respondents agreed or highly agreed. That percentage is up slightly from the same survey conducted in 2007, and we don’t have data regarding how the responses would have been different if the question had been asked about other specialties. But I still find it concerning that about 25% of PCPs and hospitalists don’t see hospitalists as respected members of a medical staff. (If you are wondering, there wasn’t much of a difference between how hospitalists and PCPs answered the question.)
Use First Names
In the 1980s, I left residency and entered private practice as a hospitalist in a nonteaching, suburban hospital. I had a really hard time calling other doctors by their first names, especially the highly regarded senior internist who was my former roommate’s dad. He had always been Dr. McCollough to me, and I insisted calling him “Doctor” until we had been peers on the same medical staff for about a year.
Finally, in a somewhat annoyed voice, he told me I had to start calling him “Bob,” and that I should call all the doctors by their first names. It took a while, but using first names began to feel normal. Looking back on it, I think Dr. McCollough Bob taught me an important lesson about fitting in.
So make sure the hospitalists in your group call other doctors by their first names, too.
Dress the Part
I’ve come to believe that there are a number of things some hospitalists do to sabotage their own interest in being respected by the medical staff at their hospital. To my surprise, I’ve worked with a number of hospitalist groups in which most dress and act like residents, then complain that other doctors at their hospital treat them like residents. I think the way we dress, especially early in our careers, is a pretty big deal. If you’re similar in age to residents, then you’ll sure look like a resident if you dress like them. So don’t wear scrubs and Skechers unless all of the doctors in your hospital wear scrubs and Skechers.
The best advice is to dress the way the respected doctors dress. Follow the lead on things like neckties, dresses, and the white coat (the latter is almost unheard of at my hospital unless it is used to cover up scrubs). Fortunately, few doctors dress formally anymore (e.g., suit, and tie or sport coat for men). Emerging research might push all of us toward shedding ties, long sleeves, and the white coat before long.
Of course, you should keep in mind the way patients would like to see you dress. You can find information about patient expectations through a simple Internet search or by asking the person in charge of patient satisfaction at your hospital.