“I’m of the firm belief that we can reduce costs by doing the procedures at the bedside rather than referring them to departments such as interventional radiology (IR),” Dr. Barsuk says. “What you would have to do is show the institution that it costs more money to have IR do [bedside procedures].”
I’m of the firm belief that we can reduce costs by doing the procedures at the bedside rather than referring them to departments such as interventional radiology.
—Jeffrey Barsuk, MD, MS, FHM, associate professor of medicine, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, academic hospitalist, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
Filling in the procedural training gaps found on the local level, such national organizations as SHM have stepped in to provide education and support for hospitalists yearning for training. Since its inception, an SHM annual meeting pre-course that focuses on hand-held ultrasound and invasive procedures has consistently been one of the first to sell out. Other national organizations, such as ACP and its annual meeting, have seen similar interest in their courses on ultrasound-guided procedures.
The popularity of this continuing education bears out a worrisome trend: Hospitalists feel they are losing their procedural skills. An online survey conducted by The Hospitalist in May 2011 found that a majority of respondents (62%) had experienced deterioration of their procedural skills in the past five years; only 25% said they experienced improvement over the same period.
Historically, general internists have claimed bedside procedures as their domain. As stated dispassionately in the 1978 book The House of God, “There is no body cavity that cannot be reached with a #14G needle and a good strong arm.”1 Yet much has changed since Samuel Shem’s apocryphal description of medical residency training.
Most notably, the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) has not only progressively restricted inpatient hours and patient loads for residents, but also increased the requirements for outpatient training. Some feel the balance of inpatient and outpatient training has tipped too far toward the latter in medicine residency programs, especially in light of the growing popularity of the hospitalist career path amongst new residency program graduates. This stands in contrast to ED training programs, which have embraced focused procedures training more readily.
“Adult care appears to be diverging into two career tacks as a result of external forces, of which we have limited control over, “ says Michael Beck, MD, a pediatric and adult hospitalist at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa. “With new career choices emerging for graduates, the same square-peg, round-hole residency training should not exist.”
Dr. Beck advocates continuing an ongoing trend of “track” creation in residency programs, which allow trainees to focus training on their planned career path. Hospitalist tracks already exist in many medicine programs, including those at Cleveland Clinic and Northwestern. But many other factors limit the opportunity for trainees to obtain experience with bedside procedures, including competition with nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Even the increasing availability of ancillary phlebotomy and IV-start teams can increase a resident’s anxiety about procedures.
“By the time my residency was over [in 1993] and the work restrictions were beginning, hospital employees were doing all these tasks, making the residents less comfortable with hurting a patient when it was therapeutically necessary,” says Katharine Deiss, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. Interns who came from medical schools without extensive ancillary services in their teaching hospitals, she adds, were more comfortable with invasive procedures.