Did you have to overcome any obstacles when the affiliation launched?
The biggest hurdle was earning the trust of the nurses, the referring pediatricians, and the patients themselves. We started family-centered rounds, where we meet with every patient, their family, and the nurse to come up with a daily care plan. Slowly, by taking excellent care of every one of those patients and communicating at every single admission with the primary-care physician (PCP), we earned the trust of everyone.
Do you think these types of affiliations will become more common?
Yes. It’s truly a win-win situation. Lawrence General wins because they’re keeping more patients in the community. The patients win because they are close to home. Tufts Medical Center wins because it’s more involved in the community.
How pleased are PCPs in the community?
It’s definitely a win for them, too. If there is someone in their office that requires hospitalization, they can call the hospitalist and refer the patient directly to the pediatric inpatient unit, so there’s no going to the emergency room and no wait time. Also, if a pediatrician can refer to a hospitalist, they’re not leaving their office early to go see someone at the hospital. If they know their patient is getting really good care at the hospital, they can focus on delivering better, more efficient care in their practice.
Do you have to take a different approach to care because you are treating children?
The biggest difference is that you have two patients, the child and their family, so you have to spend more time explaining everything you do. No. 2, because you’re treating a child, you have to make sure you respect them by communicating with them and examining them in a nonthreatening way. The best part is, you’re required to have fun every day.
What is the biggest challenge pediatric hospitalists face?
The standardizing of care is new to our field, but it’s very important. Protocols and guidelines are still in development. I think it’s off to a good start, but there are still many new ways of thinking.
What is your biggest professional reward?
Because we’re a new field, the reward is seeing our field grow every year in terms of the number of pediatric hospitalists. Another is what we’re doing at Lawrence General, and seeing how our field keeps expanding and improving pediatric care in hospitals across the country. To have a job I can go to that’s so enjoyable, and at the end of every day I’m helping a smiling child, that makes it all worthwhile.
Mark Leiser is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.