Dr. West, an associate program director for the internal-medicine residency program at Mayo, sees a generational sea change in the career considerations deemed most important. Based on a career decision survey filled out by nearly 15,000 internal-medical residents, he found that roughly 70% of respondents said time with family was of “high” or “very high” importance to their career decisions.5 The category, which relates to SHM’s “workload and schedule” pillar, beat out eight others as the most important factor overall, while global financial considerations scored relatively low.
Residents who placed high value on time with family were more likely to choose careers in more predictable, outpatient-based specialties, such as endocrinology or rheumatology. HM also fared well in this category. Dr. West says the results suggest that residents considering a hospitalist career are attracted to the specialty’s flexibility and predictability of the largely shift-based scheduling.
William Cors, MD, chief medical quality officer at Pocono Health System in East Stroudsburg, Pa., says more physicians are looking for job security, predictable shifts, and a better work-life balance. As HM matures and demonstrates that it can address those needs, Dr. Cors sees it becoming more attractive for medical students and residents.
In practice, though, other research suggests a career in HM doesn’t always meet expectations. Dr. Wetterneck and Dr. Hinami, for example, highlighted both compensation and work-life balance as points of concern in their study: For both factors, only about 30% of hospitalists were optimally satisfied.
Separately, Dr. Misky and his colleagues reported that roughly half of academic hospitalists were satisfied with the ability to control their schedule, and with their amount of personal and family time. Those who were unsatisfied with either of these categories, the survey found, were at higher risk for burnout. Similarly, Dr. Yoon found that physicians who reported having no control over their work hours or their call schedule, part of SHM’s “autonomy and control” pillar, were more likely to report burnout.
So why is HM stumbling on perceived selling points like family friendliness and autonomy? Dr. Wetterneck believes too many unfilled jobs and rapid turnover could be putting more pressure on existing hospitalists and interfering with their ability to balance home and work life. “There’s a huge need for hospitalists everywhere,” she says, and reliance on them has been especially acute at academic centers and large community hospitals contending with the recently imposed limits on residents’ work hours.
The Hospitalist: A People Person
Another shift may be occurring in the types of relationships necessary for a satisfying work environment, a big part of the “community and environment” pillar. Although Dr. Yoon says long-term connections with students and trainees have added meaning to his job, he is mourning the absence of other bonds. “One loss I’m starting to feel keenly as an academic hospitalist, having spent my early training years as a primary-care doc, really is the loss of having long-term relationships with patients,” he says. “My clinical encounters with patients these days as a hospitalist are very intense, but also very brief.”
Dr. Yoon has pondered whether the HM field can rearrange practice settings to promote more satisfying relationships. Such a change, he says, might occur through innovative models that aid coordination with medical homes, or provide more chronic care for high-risk patients. “In my view, the trajectory of hospital medicine is pretty wide open for creativity and new models of care,” he says. “I think it will be partly driven by the need to want to have more meaningful interactions with patients.”