Legend has it that Alexander the Great once was confronted with an intricate knot tying up a sacred ox cart in the palace of the Phrygians, whom he was trying to conquer. When his attempts to untie the knot proved unsuccessful, he drew his sword and sliced it in half, thus providing a rapid if inelegant solution.
Pediatric hospital medicine (PHM) now finds itself facing a similar dilemma in its attempts to define its “kingdom.” The question: Who will become citizens of this kingdom—and who will be left outside the gates? And will this intricate knot be unraveled or simply cut?
In some ways, the mere posing of this question signifies the success PHM has forged for itself over the past decade. At its core, the question of how to define the identity, and thus the training, of a pediatric hospitalist is rooted in noble ideals: excellence in the management of hospitalized children, robust training in quality improvement, patient safety, and cost-effective care.1 Yet this question also stirs up more base feelings frequently articulated in many a physician lounge: territoriality, inadequacy, feeling excluded.
Nevertheless, the question must be answered.
In many ways, the situation in which PHM finds itself mirrors the dilemma facing pediatrics itself in its infancy. As Borden Veeder, the first president of the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), wrote in the 1930s, “There were no legal or medical requirements relating to the training and education of specialists—all a man licensed to practice medicine had to do was to announce himself as a surgeon, internist, pediatrician, etc., as he preferred.”2 In 1933, the ABP was incorporated, with representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA) section on pediatrics, and the American Pediatric Society.
Facing a similar state of confusion, hospitalist leaders of the PHM community in 2010 formed the Strategic Planning Committee (STP) to evaluate training and certification options for PHM as a distinct discipline.3 Co-chairs of the STP Committee were chosen by consensus from a group composed of one representative each from the AAP Section on Hospital Medicine (AAP SOHM), the Academic Pediatric Association (APA), and SHM. The STP identified various training and/or certification options that could define PHM as a subspecialty. A survey with these options was distributed to the PHM community via the listservs of the APA, the AAP SOHM, and the AAP. The results:3
- 33% of respondents preferred Recognition of Focused Practice through the American Board of Internal Medicine’s (ABIM) Maintenance of Certification (MOC);
- 30% preferred a two-year fellowship; and
- 17% suggested an HM track within pediatric residency.
Yet at the PHM Leaders Conference in Chapel Hill, N.C., in April, “there was overwhelming consensus that an MOC program could not provide the rigor to insure [sic] that all pediatric hospitalists would meet a standard.”4 Further, “there was overwhelming consensus that a standardized training program resulting in certification was the best option to assure adequate training in the PHM Core Competencies and provide the public with a meaningful definition of a pediatric hospitalist” and “that the duration of such training should be two years.” Why, one might ask, would those present feel so strongly that the MOC model would be inadequate?
Many concerns regarding MOC were voiced, including whether MOC addresses a knowledge gap after residency (which it does to some extent through ongoing recertification requirements), whether it ensures public trust (but it had “positive potential”), and whether it addressed core competencies (to which the leadership present answered “yes, if rigorous”).4