Hospitalist Brian Bossard, MD, FACP, FHM, founder and medical director of Inpatient Physician Associates, which serves Bryan Health Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb., as well as Columbus (Neb.) Community Hospital and Great Plains Regional Medical Center in North Platte, recalls a time when the suggestion of community involvement was a non-starter for physicians. Twenty years ago, he says, “the idea was that physicians work so many hours that there wasn’t time for community involvement.” In the ensuing years, the advent of shift-based work has created an opportunity for hospitalists to connect to community.
Learning the ropes takes the majority of a physician’s time in the first year or two on a new assignment right after residency, Dr. Bossard says. But after initial orientation, young hospitalists in their group are encouraged to become “joiners.”
“We identify activities that the physicians can participate in—many of them medically related, such as sitting on the board of a local blood bank,” he says. “Feeling a part of something bigger, and participating in areas outside of your direct control, can add to satisfaction.”
And that, in turn, can lead to engaged, satisfied, happy, and retained physicians.
Closing the Credibility Gap
David Grace, MD, FHM, SFHM area medical officer for The Schumacher Group’s Hospital Medicine Division in Lafayette, La., agrees that community involvement can lead to improved engagement, as well as a better sense of belonging and job satisfaction. He also encourages younger hospitalists to become engaged in their local communities. Participating in volunteer activities can lead to:
- Better public understanding of what hospitalists do;
- Better relationships with key hospital and community stakeholders; and
- Better use of down time for long-distance hospitalist commuters.
Regarding his first point, Dr. Grace finds that despite the growth of the hospitalist movement, many consumers still do not understand the role hospitalists play in patient care. Encountering hospitalists in the community helps patients put a public and familiar face on the concept. Community involvement can function as “direct-to-consumer advertising,” he says, when patients express a preference for hospitals based on their interface with hospitalists in the community. He notes that “the smaller the town, the more likely there will be a dividing line between the community and ‘outsiders.’ The chance to go from being an outsider to an insider can have a profound effect on your success, your future, and your happiness.”
Because the business of healthcare is based on relationships, interacting with hospital stakeholders at youth sporting events and other gatherings gives hospitalists a chance to build relationships away from the pressures of the work environment. At the core of community involvement, Dr. Grace says, is the reality that “we are social creatures. There’s something about developing a bond away from the hospital that provides a unique strength, compared to a bond formed solely in the hospital environment.”
Manikandan Nagendran, MD, medical director of the hospital medicine program at Dauterive Hospital in New Iberia, La., has strengthened his professional relationships through community participation. After completing his residency, he joined the Schumacher hospitalist program at Dauterive Hospital. Burt Bujard, MD, who had begun the HM program just two years prior, took Dr. Nagendran under his wing. Not only did he introduce Dr. Nagendran to community primary care providers and specialists, he also fostered his involvement with some of the hospital’s traditions, such as the Gumbo Cook-Off and annual Berry Ball. Organized by all the physicians and their spouses, “the Berry Ball is a great social event to meet lots of nurses, doctors, and administrative people,” Dr. Nagendran says.