The National Association of Inpatient Physicians (NAIP)—now known as SHM—first held an annual meeting in the spring of 1998 in San Diego. Some 100 hospitalists attended the largest gathering of the nascent field. A little more than a decade later, 2,000-plus hospitalists crowded together in Chicago for HM09.
That exponential growth is tied to a host of factors, mostly the swelling ranks of hospitalists. But in terms of conventioneers, the year-over-year spikes in attendance mean that more and more first-timers are attending SHM’s annual gathering. In fact, SHM estimates that 30% of attendees are first-timers.
“Over the last five years, we’ve seen a significant increase in attendance over each year, with the culmination being that 2009 sold out,” says Geri Barnes, SHM senior director of education and meetings. “There are those who return year after year, and new members. It’s primarily new members.”
The growth in the annual meeting attendance confirms that HM is growing in numbers and influence. More and more physicians are making HM a career, and the annual meeting is the perfect place to learn more about the specialty and all it has to offer.
“Sometimes new physicians become hospitalists thinking that it might be a transition time for them. By going to these meetings, they can really cement in their minds the excitement and enthusiasm for being a hospital medicine physician,” says Brian Bossard, MD, FACP, FHM, founder of Inpatient Physicians Associations, a Lincoln, Neb.-based operator of three HM groups. “If they were thinking about transitioning out of HM into a fellowship, this might really encourage them to think twice about that.”
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A four-day conference with more than 90 educational sessions can be intimidating to the first-time attendee. How does a rookie navigate all that “excitement and enthusiasm”? Which sessions does one attend? How does a young hospitalist get matched up with a mentor? What should a veteran hospitalist be learning that they can relay to their colleagues back home?
“First and foremost, they get to interact with colleagues from all over the country, as well as we now have hospitalists from other parts of the world actually coming to our annual meeting,” says Amir Jaffer, MD, FHM, chair of SHM’s annual meeting committee, associate professor, and division chief of hospital medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “So one is the ability to interact and talk about the fast-changing field of hospital medicine. Two is that they get to learn about both clinical topics as well as other areas in HM that are more practical, either related to operations, quality improvement, patient safety, research.
“The third thing is that you get a chance to present your work, whether you’re a researcher, a QI guru, [or] you’re an educator. You get a chance to present your work in the form of a poster or an oral presentation. Fourth, you also get a chance to see a lot of the work that our colleagues from all across the country and the world are doing in HM to actually change it.”
The key to extracting all that information is preparation, according to those who have attended the meeting in the past. That includes checking out the pre-course schedule online, prioritizing meetings that relate to one’s day-to-day responsibilities, picking the educational tracks that appeal most, and taking advantage of the exhibit hall, which runs the length of the conference.
Femi Adewunmi, MD, MBA, FHM, has been to five SHM annual meetings, and has attended three pre-courses in that time. As medical director of the hospitalist service at Johnston Medical Center in Smithfield, N.C., he has found the learning sessions on practice management and billing and coding to be the most helpful. He recommends both to first-timers looking to accumulate real-world tips they can apply to their HM practices.
There is “a constant battle that we face trying to justify why you’re asking for more resources,” Dr. Adewunmi says. “To be able to do that convincingly, you need to be able to demonstrate your worth. … For people who have never gone to any of the pre-courses, any of them are a great tool. The amount of knowledge you come away with is pretty phenomenal. You’re given the little nuggets you need to do whatever you need to do.”
Dr. Bossard, a member of Team Hospitalist, estimates he’s been to 10 of the 13 annual meetings. He usually travels with colleagues and makes sure to coordinate educational tracks before the conference begins so that the group avoids redundancy by splitting up sessions.
“Divide and conquer,” Dr. Bossard adds. “We always bring it back to our group in smaller, bullet-type fashion. We all get a taste of sessions we weren’t able to attend.”
Barnes agrees that planning ahead is the key to success. “Do it based on what your primary role is,” she says. “Is your primary role research? Are you an academic hospitalist? Do you have an important role leading quality initiatives? Are you a group leader? At the end of the day, you can follow a track all the way down or you can jump across tracks—whatever is appealing.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.
PHOTO MATT FENSTERMACHER