A powerful tool, subspecialty certification should be adopted—and soon
There are many different ways for pediatric hospital medicine to evolve and gain recognition. Board certification with required fellowship training is the most well-known method. For adult hospitalists, recognition of Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine (FPHM) has been established. Residency programs are becoming more innovative, creating additional tracks to provide accelerated fellowship education. What path should be chosen for the future of pediatric hospital medicine?
The decision could be compared to purchasing a cellphone. Simple flip phones are sufficient for making phone calls, just as a graduating pediatrics resident might care for routine inpatients. But the smartphone, like the fellowship/subspecialty certification route, provides advantages that could be worth the additional costs.
You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their cellphone. It often reveals personality traits, professions, and behavioral tendencies. Similarly, administrators, colleagues, and other payors might make assumptions based on fellowship/subspecialty certification status. Pediatric hospitalists should be considered experts in the field of clinical HM, hospital-based research, quality improvement (QI), inpatient procedures, and administrative leadership. Fellowship directors have begun discussing how to standardize these content areas. Subspecialty certification after such training will provide a powerful tool for hospitalists to navigate potentially complex clinical scenarios, hospital bureaucracies and/or academic hierarchies. Fellowship training will add a more concrete identity and standards of quality to our subspecialty.
Smartphones are “smart” because they bring convenience and efficiency. The same can be said about fellowship training. Residency training no longer addresses all the needs of a practicing hospitalist. Although one can attend workshops on QI or research and learn hospital administration, all while on the job, many young hospitalists struggle to adapt quickly early in their career; they might fail to thrive. Fellowship programs would provide a learner-centered environment and protected time to accomplish these goals. Certification would help ensure that trainees have the knowledge and competencies needed for the job. This process, designed to create a well-prepared hospitalist work force, should lead to better advancement within the field, which would mean more hospitalists in meaningful leadership roles and improved quality of hospital care.
The cost of a cellphone and its monthly plan must be taken into account when choosing what purchase. Similarly, the benefits of additional education and recognition must be measured against the costs of additional training. For most, the benefits of well-trained hospitalists outweigh the costs in the long run. Concerns of alienating those without board certification or limiting the work force likely are unfounded. The majority of EDs are staffed by general emergency medicine physicians who do not have pediatric emergency medicine certification—and they all see children, and provide referrals to dedicated children’s facilities when needed. Similarly, community hospital wards can choose to follow suit, depending on their needs.
Fellowship training and subspecialty board certification offer numerous benefits that likely outweigh the costs of a new “plan.” We don’t want just anyone on call; we want a future full of smart hospitalists who are leading practitioners of QI, education, and scholarship.
Dr. Chen is assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.
One-size-fits-all approach is not what pediatric hospitalists need
According to Freed et al in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, the central goals of a fellowship in pediatric HM include “advanced training in the clinical care of hospitalized patients, quality improvement (QI), and hospital administration.”1 To determine if certification within pediatric hospital medicine should require a fellowship, it is necessary to decide if there are additional skills beyond those obtained during a pediatric residency that are required for practice as a pediatric hospitalist.