I have a problem. OK, many problems. Marital discord, balky kids, bloated mortgage? No, fortunately, not those kinds of domestic problems—although I do struggle with reliably differentiating whites from darks. My biggest problem is work-related. And this isn’t new. Turns out, I have different problems at work every year. “Time to find a new job,” you say. Tell the boss to shove it? Produce an epic, Jerry Maguire-esque manifesto and ride off into the sunset with my goldfish and Renee Zellweger? Hmmm, Renee Zellweger…
No, no, that’s not it. Much more mundane, yet crucial, problems.
Problems like trying to sort out the implications of the impending value-based purchasing program—what does it mean for my group? How do I keep my hospitalist partners engaged, satisfied, and not burned out? How do I produce a schedule that emphasizes high-quality patient care, efficiency, and physician work-life balance? How can I reduce readmissions so my hospital administrator can go back to “administrating” someone other than me all day? What do I do with the perioperative beta blockade now that some of the original data have been called into question due to academic dishonesty? What does the Affordable Care Act really say, is it going stand up, and what does it mean for me, my patients, my salary, and my career?
These are all questions I am grappling with currently. They also are all questions that will be addressed at HM12, April 1-4 in San Diego. As such, I view the annual meeting as a kind of toolkit: Have a problem, reach into the HM12 toolkit, and pull out your solution. The beauty is its breadth. You might not care one iota about healthcare reform, scheduling, or group satisfaction. Fine: How about updates in new medications, management of hyponatremia, the unique challenges of women in medicine, managing acute ventilator issues, acute pain management, information technology, quality improvement, professionalism in the digital age, or listening to the latest in the management of Clostridium difficile from the world-renowned Dr. John Bartlett? All are tools in this year’s toolkit.
And this type of breadth means the annual meeting evolves with you. Early in my career, I reached for the clinical tools. Then it was practice development and management tools; now I tend to look for healthcare policy solutions. Suffice to say, whatever solution you are looking for, with nine tracks, eight pathways, seven pre-courses, three plenary sessions by healthcare luminaries, and two Research, Innovation, and Vignette sessions, HM12 has your tool.
How can you best access this trove of information? Here is some advice culled from my 10 years of attending SHM annual meetings.
They Won’t Leave A Light On For You Forever
Unless you’re Tom Bodett, I’d recommend you get a hotel room now. For my first annual meeting (which was also in San Diego), I registered late, found no hotel rooms in the city, and had to commute 30 minutes both ways. Not only is this inconvenient and costly (I had to rent a car), but it also takes you out of the action. You want to be on-site, especially after meeting hours, when a lot of the networking and fun happens.
Stay Out Late
OK, now that you have a room, don’t use it. Rooms are for sleeping. If you find yourself in your room not sleeping, then you are missing out on some of the richest aspects of the conference—meeting new people, catching up with colleagues you see only once a year, and bathing in the general excitement of being at a meeting with thousands of peers. This remains the most satisfying part of the annual meeting experience for me. It’s dinner with a colleague from another part of the country, coffee with a new acquaintance, or a drink with an old friend. It’s energizing, engaging, and reignites my passion for HM.
Sleep Is For Vacation
Staying with the hotel room theme, don’t sleep in. I realize San Diego in April can feel like a vacation, and truth be told, it should. However, you came to learn. It’s tempting to maximize pillow time instead of heading down to the first plenary session at 8 a.m.—after all, you stayed out late networking! Anyway, how interesting can it be? Very. Dr. Patrick Conway is going to lead off the meeting with a look at the implications of the Affordable Care Act for hospitalists. As a hospitalist and CMO of CMS, he should know. Come to this session, and so will you.
Declare a Major and a Minor
Remember college? Me, neither. But I do have a vague recollection of that kid-in-a-candy-store feeling of choice my freshman year. The rest is a blur of late nights, hungover Sundays, and weight gain. Just like the college course book, the HM12 agenda can be overwhelming. Choice is great, but how do you choose what to go to? Just like college, you need a plan. Spend time before the meeting charting your course. What do you want to learn? What knowledge gaps do you want to fill? Throw in something for fun. Peruse the website, print out or download the slide decks from the talks you are interested in, and have a plan to maximize your time in San Diego.
Divide and Conquer
Next, make a plan with your friends. Most attendees have at least one other group member attending the meeting. Don’t go to the same sessions. Why? You should share your findings with the rest of your group.
You’ll no doubt pick up a new method for patient handoffs, moving patients through the hospital more efficiently, creating an incentive plan, or developing a post-discharge clinic. Bring it home; share it; implement it.
Go to the RIV Sessions
“But wait,” you say, “I’m not a researcher.” Perhaps true, but you are a hospitalist. And this is the material that is coming down the pike. It’s the cool case you’ll encounter next month, the innovation that’ll help your patients avoid hospital infections, or the research that will inform the next VTE prophylaxis guideline.
Bring your business cards. And like a rhinovirus, give them to everyone. Entranced person next to you at the plenary? Card. New face at the Special Interest Forum for rural hospitalists? Card. Erudite-appearing character scanning the poster abstract on readmissions with you? Card. Bagel-versus-English-muffin-debating person in the breakfast line? Card.
The point is, don’t be shy. You are there to be part of the hospitalist movement—to learn, to share, to be part of the discussion, to help define our collective future. Do that. This isn’t the time to be a wallflower. Rather, say “hi” to the person next to you. Strike up a conversation; you never know where it may lead.
You Had Me At “Hello”
So tell your boss to “show me the money,” so that you, too, can utilize the HM12 toolkit. If he or she balks, tell them to “help me help you.” Because after attending the meeting, I’m confident that with a tear in your eye, you’ll sappily utter, “HM12, you complete me.”
Dr. Glasheen is physician editor of The Hospitalist.