Hospitalists Should Not Hesitate to Join Hospital Committees
What’s the story with hospital committee work? Is this part of my job?
–Timothy P. Young, Fort Worth, Texas
Dr. Hospitalist responds:
Yes. Allow me to explain. It’s 2013, and hospitalists are the physician workforce in the hospital. Yes, radiologists, anesthesiologists, and ED physicians are hospital-based, but their work is location-focused, not longitudinal and cross-discipline, as it is for general hospitalists. A hospital has a rather cumbersome administrative apparatus, and, as in any large organization, committees are its lifeblood. Your hospital leadership also will appreciate your contribution in a role outside of day-to-day clinical work.
The standing rule in our group is that every hospitalist must serve on at least one hospital committee. Here are three committees that strike me as most vital to our job:
Peer review: Arguably, this is the committee with the most impact in the hospital when it is run correctly. Although its stated objective is to review physician-related clinical concerns, don’t be surprised if offending physicians interpret clinical complaints as political grievances. This requires a thick skin and the ability to park your allegiances at the door. Physicians generally have done a pretty poor job policing themselves over the years, and while this committee does not need to be Draconian in nature, it should review complaints seriously and objectively. That also means recusing yourself from discussions involving your partners.
Credentialing: Another essential committee. I can’t tell you the number of times over the years we have hired a new physician with a specific start date in mind, only to miss that date over a delay with hospital credentialing. Talk about a morale killer—when everyone is overworked and the promised extra help doesn’t arrive … ouch. Having a representative on this committee is no guarantee of punctual credentialing; however, it can help your group stay on top of expected deadlines and potential hiccups.
Information technology: EMR? Meaningful use? CPOE? Physician champion for IT issues? At the rate we’re going, it looks like all of us are going to work for the IT department someday. Lovely as these people are, they often have imperfect insight into the day-to-day workload of a hospitalist. Little things—such as the fact that a computer workstation also needs a telephone so you can answer pages—will never make it onto their radar screen without physician input.
Other committees of note: internal medicine, pharmacy and therapeutics (P&T), infection control, quality control, patient safety, ethics, and executive council. One caveat: The importance of these committees will vary greatly from hospital to hospital, so if you are new, take the time to ask around and get the lay of the land. My list and the rankings are by no means definitive.
Go ahead and join a committee, even if it does not happen to be your first choice. It does not mean that you will be on that committee for life, but it will grant you good exposure across multiple disciplines in the hospital. Overall, for your practice health, your group should be well represented on hospital committees.