The branching tree of hospital medicine



Another common hospitalist role is the weekendist, hospitalists who spend much of their clinical time preferentially working weekends. Similar to nocturnists, weekendists provide benefit to their hospitalist group by allowing others to have more weekends off.

Dr. Brian Kwan, associate professor of health science at University of California San Diego, and a hospitalist.

Dr. Brian Kwan

Weekendists may prefer working weekends because of fewer total shifts or hours and/or higher compensation per shift. Additionally, weekendists have the flexibility to do other work on weekdays, such as research or another hospitalist job. For those that do nonclinical work during the week, a weekendist position may allow them to keep their clinical skills up to date. However, weekendists may face intense clinical days with a higher census because of fewer hospitalists rounding on the weekends.

Weekendists must balance having more potential time available during the weekdays but less time on the weekends to devote to family and friends. Furthermore, weekendists may feel less engaged with nonclinical opportunities, including quality improvement, educational offerings, and teaching opportunities.


With increasing emphasis on transitions of care and the desire to avoid readmission penalties, some hospitalists have transitioned to work partly or primarily in skilled nursing facilities (SNF) and have been referred to as “SNFists.” Some of these hospitalists may split their clinical time between SNFs and acute care hospitals, while others may work exclusively at SNFs.

Patricia Seymour, MD, FHM, FAAFP, academic hospitalist at University of Massachusetts-Worcester

Dr. Patricia Seymour

SNFists have the potential to be invaluable in improving transitions of care after discharge to post–acute care facilities because of increased provider presence in these facilities, comfort with medically complex patients, and appreciation of government regulations.4 SNFists may face potential challenges of needing to staff more than one post–acute care hospital and of having less resources available, compared with an acute care hospital.

Specific specialty hospitalists

For a variety of reasons including clinical interest, many hospitalists have become specialized with regards to their primary inpatient population. Some hospitalists spend the majority of their clinical time on a specific service in the hospital, often working closely with the subspecialist caring for that patient. These hospitalists may focus on hematology, oncology, bone-marrow transplant, neurology, cardiology, surgery services, or critical care, among others. Hospitalists focused on a specific service often become knowledge experts in that specialty. Conversely, by focusing on a specific service, certain pathologies may be less commonly seen, which may narrow the breadth of the hospital medicine job.

Hospitalist training

Internal medicine hospitalists may be the most common hospitalists encountered in many hospitals and at each Society of Hospital Medicine annual conference, but there has also been rapid growth in hospitalists from other specialties and backgrounds.

Family medicine hospitalists are a part of 64.9% of HM groups and about 9% of family medicine graduates are choosing HM as a career path.2,3 Most family medicine hospitalists work in adult HM groups, but some, particularly in rural or academic settings, care for pediatric, newborn, and/or maternity patients. Similarly, pediatric hospitalists have become entrenched at many hospitals where children are admitted. These pediatric hospitalists, like adult hospitalists, may work in a variety of different clinical roles including in EDs, newborn nurseries, and inpatient wards or ICUs; they may also provide consult, sedation, or procedural services.

Med-peds hospitalists that split time between internal medicine and pediatrics are becoming more commonplace in the field. Many work at academic centers where they often work on each side separately, doing the same work as their internal medicine or pediatrics colleagues, and then switching to the other side after a period of time. Some centers offer unique roles for med-peds hospitalists including working on adult consult teams in children’s hospitals, where they provide consult care to older patients that may still receive their care at a children’s hospital. There are also nonacademic hospitals that primarily staff med-peds hospitalists, where they can provide the full spectrum of care from the newborn nursery to the inpatient pediatric and adult wards.

Hospital medicine is a young field that is constantly changing with new and developing roles for hospitalists from a wide variety of backgrounds. Stick around to see which “-ist” will come next in HM.

Dr. Hall is a med-peds hospitalist and assistant professor at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. Dr. Sanyal-Dey is an academic hospitalist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and the University of California, San Francisco, where she is the director of clinical operations, and director of the faculty inpatient service. Dr. Chang is associate professor and interprofessional education thread director (MD curriculum) at Washington University, St. Louis. Dr. Kwan is a hospitalist at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and associate professor at the University of California, San Diego. He is the chair of SHM’s Physicians in Training committee. Dr. Seymour is family medicine hospitalist education director at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, Worcester, and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts.


1. Wachter RM, Goldman L. The Emerging Role of “Hospitalists” in the American Health Care System. N Engl J Med. 1996;335(7):514-7.

2. 2018 State of Hospital Medicine Report. Philadelphia: Society of Hospital Medicine, 2018.

3. Weaver SP, Hill J. Academician Attitudes and Beliefs Regarding the Use of Hospitalists: A CERA Study. Fam Med. 2015;47(5):357-61.

4. Teno JM et al. Temporal Trends in the Numbers of Skilled Nursing Facility Specialists From 2007 Through 2014. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(9):1376-8.

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