The conversation came as a surprise to Len Scarpinato, DO, MS, SFHM. The chief medical officer of clinical development for Brentwood, Tenn.-based Cogent-HMG had sensed something was bothering one of the community hospitalists at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee. When Dr. Scarpinato approached him, the hospitalist told Dr. Scarpinato that he wanted to work as an academic hospitalist.
Dr. Scarpinato encouraged the clinician to try his hand at an academic center on his “off weeks.” The once-discouraged hospitalist stayed with Cogent-HMG, received leadership training, and now is an associate program medical director.
Whether group leaders across the country know it or not, there are hospitalists who are unfulfilled in their careers or dissatisfied with their work. Sometimes a group leader sees the problem coming; sometimes it manifests out of thin air.
A lack of fulfillment in a job can affect patient care. Experts say unhappy hospitalists are less likely to have good rapport with patients, less likely to communicate with the care team, and less likely to follow up on post-discharge lab results. It also hampers the efficacy of a company that frequently has to fill jobs vacated by dissatisfied physicians.
Job fulfillment is a feeling of satisfaction that is related to, but distinct from, burnout (the feeling of being overworked). And while burnout is a topic of widespread concern throughout HM, a lack of job fulfillment is equally important.
The Hospital Medicine Physician Worklife Survey administered in 2009 and 2010 found that 62.6% of the hospitalists who responded reported high satisfaction in their jobs.1 But according to the survey, there was lower satisfaction in terms of organization climate, autonomy, compensation, and availability of personal time.
HM groups should make it a priority to keep their clinicians involved in activities that keep them interested, says John Nelson, MD, MHM, FACP, medical director of the hospitalist practice at Overlake Hospital Medical Center, Bellevue, Wash., hospitalist practice management consultant, and columnist for The Hospitalist.
“You’ve got to do something besides taking care of patients,” Dr. Nelson says.
The Hospitalist asked group leaders and consultants how to spot signs of low job satisfaction, how they can keep their hospitalists fulfilled, and tips for other HM group leaders on how to handle this sensitive topic. Their suggestions offer an array of mechanisms hospitalists can use to battle fulfillment issues in their groups.