Every SHM member signs up for different reasons. For some, it’s career development. For others, it’s discounts on industry-leading resources like SHM’s annual meeting or access to quality-improvement (QI) resources like SHM’s new SQUINT (see “SQUINT Is Looking Out for You,” July 2011, p. 6).
But a common theme emerges, even among a variety of hospitalists across the country: For hospitalists, SHM is home.
HM has grown and evolved at a breakneck pace over the past 15 years, going from a few hundred hospitalists in 1996 to an estimated 30,000-plus today. The growth of a previously undefined specialty, coupled with the very public tumult and change in healthcare delivery, has made thousands of hospitalists eager for a community to call their own.
“It’s important for hospitalists to know that there’s an organization that can help and support them,” says Gopal Sarker, MD, a Springfield, Mass. -based hospitalist and chief medical officer of Accountable Care Associates in Springfield. When Sarker first became an SHM member in 2003, he signed up for the added credibility that membership brought to his new career as a hospitalist.
—Kim Dickinson, chief operating officer of hospital medicine, HCA Physician Services, Nashville, Tenn.
His new membership, he says, implied increased recognition for his own career and the specialty. “At the time, there weren’t that many hospitalists around,” he says. “We knew we needed to get more organized and involved. That’s why I got involved.”
Not every member uses every product, service, and benefit SHM offers, but many hospitalists who integrate SHM’s offerings into their professional lives have forged new career paths, formed valuable relationships, and created their own sense of personal and professional reward.
“I joined because I was a newly minted hospitalist, having just joined the group at Hopkins,” says Lenny Feldman, MD, FACP, FAAP, SFHM, the Med-Peds Urban Health Residency program director at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. “I heard that this was our society, and I wanted to be involved with the society for hospital medicine. It seemed like it was a perfect fit. I had been to other meetings, and it seemed that SHM was destined to be my home organization.”
SHM: Moving Hospitalist Careers Up
In the early days, individual hospitalists largely were responsible for making the case for the specialty and their own careers. Today, SHM membership programs help hospitalists make their case getting hired and promoted, in addition to their individual commitment and accomplishments.
Even in a hiring environment in which hospitalists are in high demand, SHM membership and involvement can help a hospitalist’s resume rise to the top of the stack.
“We’re a growing hospitalist program and I’m always impressed when I see someone that’s an SHM member,” says Erik DeLue, MD, MBA, SFHM, who, as medical director of the hospitalist program at Virtua Memorial in Mount Holly, N.J., makes hiring and promotion decisions. “That tells me that they’re serious about being a hospitalist. Especially if they’re a resident, it tells me that this is someone that is really looking at this as a career. It’s almost a deficit if they’ve been doing hospital medicine and they’re not a member.”
To many hospitalists, career development doesn’t stop at the hospital door. SHM has provided a national platform for great ideas that improve the specialty and advance careers at the same time.
Dr. Feldman saw the need to provide more education to hospitalists involved in the comanagement of surgical patients and led the effort to create SHMConsults.com, a new online consultative and perioperative curriculum. The ability to collaborate with SHM on the project gave his concept additional reach and authority throughout the specialty.
“Clearly, having the backing of the society of our educational materials gives it that much more prominence and, hopefully, will entice more hospitalists to use it,” he says. “I’m very hopeful that it will continue to grow and be an important part of the society’s education.”
Though he joined seven years ago, Dr. Feldman still considers himself one of the new members.
“I see all the folks who have been involved with SHM much longer and am amazed by their involvement,” he adds. “It’s a testament to the agility of an organization like this that it’s not so large that newer members can still have an impact.”
Dr. DeLue, who has been a member for more than 10 years, tells the same thing to future SHM members.
“I hire hospitalists all the time and I say, ‘Look, this is the one society that reflects what you’re doing,’ ” he says, “ ‘and if you have any interest in being heard on things that you think are important, this is the place for you.’ I can’t imagine becoming a hospitalist and not becoming a member.”
Connections Improve the Specialty
As change leaders in hospitals, hospitalists thrive on information from other hospitals and the connections that transfer that information. For hospitalist Sabrena Tangri, MD, and HM executive Kim Dickinson, one of SHM’s greatest resources is the connection to other hospitalists.
Dr. Tangri, an academic hospitalist at Inova Fairfax Hospital in northern Virginia, is actively developing a new SHM chapter for the Washington, D.C., area. Even before completing residency in 2009, she had interest in the big-picture issues of patient satisfaction and providing efficient, effective care to inpatients.
In addition to building a support structure for hospitalists working near the nation’s capital, she uses SHM as a connection to relevant information in other hospitals—and to offer up her own experiences to other hospitalists throughout the country. “It’s a joint partnership between the physician and the organization,” she says.
Dickinson, chief operating officer of hospital medicine at Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Physician Services, has been an SHM member for long enough that she doesn’t remember the year she joined. What she does remember is the feeling of excitement that permeated her first annual meeting more than a decade ago: “There were a couple hundred people there in a hotel basement and I remember thinking, ‘This is something,’ ” she says.
Back then, Dickinson’s membership in SHM was equal parts credibility and commitment to the specialty. “As the society was growing, it felt like an obligation to stand beside colleagues and say, ‘This is important.’ In the beginning, it felt important to stand up and be counted,” she says.
That commitment still resonates with her today. It’s something that she has communicated to others over the years.
“I always told people, ‘If you can’t wake up excited about being the future of medicine, then you shouldn’t work here.’ It’s an absolute privilege to work in hospital medicine,” Dickinson says. “We’re at a very privileged place in history.”
Today, she uses that passion and the connections she has developed through SHM to improve HCA Physician Services and the entire specialty.
“I’ve developed friendships with others outside my organization in the field, which is good for sharing information,” she says. “There are no secrets about providing the best care. Everybody has the same version of the special sauce; sharing it doesn’t dilute it, it makes the industry better.
“Being a part of SHM and being part of hospital medicine is an opportunity to create the direction of medicine. We do that every day. You can’t be cooler that.”
Brendon Shank is associate vice president of communications for SHM.