I was unknowingly the future of hospital medicine, but it was a future that almost didn’t come true. The first time I stepped onto the hospital wards was with a physician who called himself a “Hospitalist.” I was 18 years old and fulfilling my career shadowing requirement that would allow me to graduate high school. Little did I know that 12 years later, I would be pursuing hospital medicine as a full-time career.
During residency, there was no doubt my clinical interests were centered in hospital medicine. It was important for me to find a med-peds hospitalist position that would allow me to care for both adults and children. Upon graduating residency, acclimating to attending life was my primary goal. However, I didn’t realize how much I needed a trusted mentor to help me navigate progressing through and advancing my career as a hospitalist. I was new at my first institution as an attending, and there was no emphasis on the importance of having a mentor. I had no new goals set for myself because I had just finished the most challenging career obstacles of my life: graduating residency and successfully passing two board exams.
Early in my hospitalist career, I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. At this point, I was truly lost in my career path. I absolutely loved being a hospitalist, but I had convinced myself that I could not be both a hospitalist and a mother successfully. I made the decision to step away from hospital medicine and join an outpatient clinic.
During my time at the clinic, it became evident to me that I was not professionally fulfilled. After having my daughter, I started devising ways how I could return to my previous hospitalist group and just occasionally help with admissions or rounding on a few patients. But putting myself in two realms of medicine would stretch me too thin. It would also frustrate me to only be able to tip-toe back into hospital medicine and not be able to work more in the clinical setting I loved the most.
After having my second child, I knew I needed a career adjustment. The opportunity to return to hospital medicine fell into my lap, and I could not turn away my second chance. My previous group was extremely short-staffed, and they were in need of hiring new hospitalists.
Creating the terms of my return allowed me to comfortably express myself as a physician who loved hospital medicine as well as a mother of young children. I returned with a work schedule that allowed me to practice the medicine I love while still being the mother I wanted to be for my children.
Today, I am in academia where I work as a med-peds hospitalist at the Marshall University School of Medicine. I have achieved certification in focus practice in hospital medicine through the ABIM. I am also board certified in pediatric hospital medicine. I have a mentor with knowledge of who I am holistically. Through mentorship, I have short and long-term goals outlined for my career. I have also added two more children to my family. I am the associate program director of our pediatric hospital medicine fellowship program. I chair the Women in Medicine in Science committee at my institution.
Being a hospitalist and having a family have fulfilled me in ways I could not imagine. I work for a program that recognizes and honors female physicians in clinical and leadership roles. Having this support has increased my confidence as a physician and allowed me to pursue unique opportunities in the field of hospital medicine to facilitate my professional growth.
But my current reality almost did not happen for me. All along, I was the future, but I almost never found my way back. The movement of positively recognizing females as both mothers and physicians working in the field of medicine helped re-direct my course. The presence of this support and encouragement from the medical community as a whole was not as showcased as it is today. Now, it is strongly felt by many. Women were once made to choose personal or professional happiness. This new force in medicine recognizes that when we support women in both pursuits of happiness, it only allows the field to grow so that current and future patients can have the best care available to them. To those behind this new force and bringing it to the forefront, I thank you.
How do we keep the momentum going to keep the future of hospital medicine bright? We must encourage women to pursue their interests in medicine while honoring their personal goals as well. We must celebrate and recognize those around us that help the advancement of women in medicine. In the Women in Medicine and Science committee I chair at my institution, we designed an award given yearly to recognize any individual who helps the advancement of women in medicine or science. We need to ensure structured mentorship programs exist and are promoted and accessible to women as they are developing and planning their careers.
I was and am the future of hospital medicine, but it was a future that almost didn’t happen. In a field I passionately love, I feel a sense of duty to now extend the lessons I have learned in my journey to those women currently navigating their journeys. A bright future in the field of hospital medicine awaits many females. Let’s all be a light to help guide their paths.
Dr. Lauffer is an assistant professor of internal medicine-pediatrics, associate program director, Marshall PHM fellowship program at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, Marshall University, Huntington, W.Va.
2023 National Hospitalist Day HM Voices Contest Winner
Andrea, well done with your journey and sharing with everyone. This article itself will serve as a mentoring tool for many woman in hospital medicine who love their work as hospitalist but often struggle with the decisions.
Good luck with your journey wearing the many hats!!!