Those relationships need not be long-term, however. One recent study found high satisfaction among hospitalists and laborists working within the fast-growing OBGYN hospitalist field.6
Dr. Hinami says collaborative care that involves close working relationships with specialists and other care providers might help propel the hospitalist movement forward. In his survey with Dr. Wetterneck, hospitalists ranked relationships with staff and colleagues among the most satisfying of any of the domains; hospitalists also indicated high levels of satisfaction with their patient relationships. “Clearly, relationships are critical to overall job satisfaction, and hospitalists, I think, are doing a fairly good job at maintaining those relationships,” Dr. Hinami says.
Clearly, relationships are critical to overall job satisfaction, and hospitalists, I think, are doing a fairly good job at maintaining those relationships.
—Keiki Hinami, MD, assistant professor of medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago
A 2002 survey-based study reinforces the importance of such bonds. Job burnout and intent to remain in the hospitalist career, its authors concluded, were more highly influenced by “favorable social relations” involving colleagues, coworkers, and patients than by such factors as reduced autonomy and the use of financial incentives.7
The focus on maintaining multiple relationships fits well with the collaborative approach to care that many hospitalists say they value highly. One big satisfier for hospitalists, Dr. Cors says, will be “a sense that they’re really part of a healthcare team and not just punching the clock and doing their shifts.”
Despite the difficulty in discerning long-term trends, studies suggest that overall satisfaction with the specialty of hospital medicine remains high, a promising sign for the maturing field. Career hospitalists also seem adept at relationships with peers and other providers, a skill that will serve them well as collaborative-care models gain steam.
Nonetheless, surveys also suggest a worrisome rate of burnout and less-than-optimal satisfaction with elements that should be the strong suits of HM, such as work-life balance and autonomy. Academics are searching for their own clinical-research balance. And Dr. West says the jury’s still out on the future pitfalls that might get in the way of a sustainable career path for older practitioners, such as overnight shifts.
Hospitalist-led efforts, however, may be starting to pay dividends. At the University of California at San Francisco, a faculty development program for first-year hospitalists has included a coaching relationship with a senior faculty member, a teaching course, newly established divisional grand rounds, and a framework for meeting scholarly expectations. Upon its implementation, the program has led to higher job satisfaction, skill-set comfort, and academic production among participants.8
Given the expanding range of HM duties and practice models, hospitals, division chiefs, and team leaders cannot rely on a single recipe for happy and productive hospitalists. “I don’t know if there is a cookbook; I think it’s highly variable depending on your institution and the needs of the academic facility where you are,” Dr. Misky says.
SHM’s 2006 white paper stated that the best career satisfaction strategy is to find a job that fits an individual’s preferences and attitudes. “People who are unhappy with their job don’t tend to stay in it, and from what we know about hospital medicine right now, you can find pretty much any type of job anywhere you want, so the job market is very open,” Dr. Wetterneck says.
Ensuring the right fit for doctors within HM, though, will require institutional support. “It’s going to be up to hospitals and hospitalist programs to create jobs that are sustainable that people like,” she says, “so that hospitalists will stay long in their job and in the profession.”