Every hospitalist program is unique because it is tailored to meet the specific needs of the hospital it serves. For instance, one employer may require hospitalists to rotate through a post-discharge clinic, while another may have them take care of ventilated or intensive care unit (ICU) patients. The next employer may expect hospitalists to work a certain number of night shifts per month. Therefore, when interviewing for a hospitalist position, it is crucial to ask the right questions to ensure you clearly understand the job requirements.
Most interviewees prepare for questions the potential employer may ask (such as “Tell me about yourself.”). However, to best understand the position and its offerings, there should be a detailed two-way conversation between you and your potential employer. Although a natural conversation flow would be ideal, it is essential to arrive at the interview with smart and appropriate questions that will benefit both you and the employer.
Here are potential questions to ask during the job-interview process broken down into categories:
Duties and responsibilities
- What responsibilities do the physicians have? Describe all potential clinical and non-clinical roles.
- What is the work schedule? What’s the expectation of how many days are worked per year? Is it shift work? If so, what are the hours? Who covers nights, weekends, and holidays (the call schedule)? Is a sick call available? Are there moonlighting opportunities?
- What does an average workday look like?
- Are hospitalists responsible for patients in an emergency department or ICU setting?
- Are telemetry floors covered by hospitalists or specialists?
- Are most patients admitted under a hospitalist, or are patients admitted under their respective service? For example, is a stroke patient admitted under medicine or to a neurology/stroke service?
- Who performs bedside procedures? Is it mandatory to be certified in procedures? If so, which procedures would this include?
- Are medical residents, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners available? Are they on every case? What are their roles?
- Is there direct patient care?
- Do the hospitalists cover services in addition to the medicine wards, such as comanagement or an observation unit?
- Are there any administrative-role opportunities (quality improvement, informatics, C-suite, etc.)?
- What is the average rate of admissions and follow-ups per day? What is the average census? Is there a cap on the number of patients a physician can see per day?
- What ancillary services are available?
About the institution
- Is the hospital considered a full-service hospital? For example, are interventional cardiology or advanced endoscopy services available? If resources are limited, are patients transferred to other centers?
- Is the job located at one center, or does it involve affiliated centers?
- How large is the current program? What are the rates of staff turnover and why?
- What electronic health record system is used?
- Describe the patient population. Is it diverse? Is it underserved? What are the principal diagnoses seen?
- From where are the patients being referred (community primary care physicians, specialty clinics)?
- Is there a mentorship program? What is the makeup of the staff in terms of years of experience?
- Is the hospital affiliated with an academic institution? Are there medical students, and what is the hospitalist’s involvement in their education? What opportunities are there to get involved in academics, education, or research?
- Who is the employer (e.g., the hospital itself, university or medical school, physician group, management company)?
- Is the hospital a 501c3 organization? Are there opportunities for loan forgiveness?
- What is the financial standing of the employing company or hospital? Are any changes to the company or hospital system expected in the next one to five years?
Compensation and benefits
- What is the salary structure? Is it a straight salary? If there is an incentive component, how is that calculated? Are the bonuses achievable? Is there a cost-of-living adjustment?
- Are any benefits provided, such as health insurance or a retirement plan?
- Are there any avenues for advancement? For additional roles taken on, is there a full-time equivalent reduction? If so, how does this affect clinical time and compensation?
- Is a contract provided?
- Who is responsible for malpractice, and what is the coverage?
- Is there assistance with moving costs?
It is important to keep in mind that you may not receive all the answers during your first meeting with a potential employer. This is a process, and you should start with general inquiries, such as the call schedule. If the employer is seriously considering hiring you, there will be further opportunities for communication, such as follow-up interviews, phone calls, and emails. During these occasions, you will have multiple chances to ask more detailed questions about your potential salary, 401K benefits, and whether the malpractice insurance includes tail insurance. These questions can vary depending on the job position, but having a toolbox of questions can significantly increase your preparedness and success in a hospitalist interview.
Dr. Grabscheid is a senior hospitalist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and a professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Dr. Shukla is a hospitalist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, site director for the MS3 inpatient medicine clerkship, and co-director of the hospitalist elective for the Mount Sinai Beth Israel internal medicine residency program in New York. Dr. Sarmiento is a hospitalist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, assistant professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and co-director of the hospitalist elective for the Mount Sinai Beth Israel internal medicine residency program in New York.