John Krisa, MD, medical director of the hospitalist group at Albany Memorial Hospital in New York, pictures his HM group as an organic whole when he draws up the schedule. He tries to avoid a strict 50-50 parceling out of night and day shifts. The hospitalist group makes liberal use of per-diem hospitalists and moonlighters, and has a few nocturnists.
“The vast majority of the work at night is processing new admissions, so these tend to be single encounters. You want your full-time people there multiple consecutive days for continuity and to represent the face of your program,” he says.
But for the required, ’round-the-clock coverage, he and other group members are expected to pull their share of nights as well. “I was always more of a nighttime person, in terms of my body clock,” Dr. Krisa says, “but now that I have more daytime nonclinical duties [as regional site director for Cogent HMG], it’s been more of a challenge to juggle home responsibilities, night shifts, and multiple administrative meetings.”
There are some basic principles of sleep hygiene and lessons learned from industrial settings that are good to keep in mind, says Christopher P. Landrigan, MD, SFHM, MPH, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and director of the Sleep and Patient Safety Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “It’s really incumbent upon hospitalist group leaders to recognize the hazards of scheduling people for too many nights in a row, which conveys a risk both to the patients and to the hospitalists themselves,” Dr. Landrigan says. “We know that if hospitalists are driving home after night shifts, particularly multiple night shifts, that they’re at risk for motor vehicle crashes and at risk of sticking themselves with needles and scalpels toward the tail end of their shifts. None of us want that.”
Dr. Landrigan advises hospitalist groups to be cognizant of the hazards and think about the schedule “proactively.”