Excuse Me, Is There a “Hospitalist” in the House?

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By John Chamberlin

Good question and, most likely, or becoming more likely, there is a hospitalist in the house, i.e. the hospital. Many patients have probably been evaluated and treated by one and may not have even known it.

The hospitalist position in hospitals is not new. An article from the Las Vegas Business Page states, “The hospitalist movement started when it was coined in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1996,” and it has been growing ever since.

One of the main reasons for the growth of the hospitalist physician role is not related at all to healthcare reform. Much of it had to do with lifestyle reform desired by general practice physicians. The typical routine of a general practitioner might be: see patients in the office for a set time frame and, in between, or after office hours, make rounds or visits to their patients that had been admitted to hospitals. The hospitalist physician position is designed to be an in-hospital that sees admitted patients on behalf of the office-based general practitioners.

It all has seemed like a good plan until recently. As it has turned out, many physicians were steering away from hospitalist positions because of the hours and on call responsibilities. “They were working upwards of 80 hours a week,” says Jeff Kammerdeiner, President, Exertus Medical Solutions Inc.

So the intent of the hospitalist position, was to decrease the overall work hours, decrease the on-call hours as well as increase the patient focus of the office-based practitioners. The downside, was, the number of hours worked by the hospitalists skyrocketed. And that’s what Mr. Kammerdeiner says is the next phase of the hospitalist position implementation. The key factor, according to Mr. Kammerdeiner, is work/life balance. “Work life balance is the number 1 trend in importance for healthcare providers. So much so that, employers are making it their priority, as well, so that they can attract the top talent.”

“Work-life balance is really not something that is ‘a nice thing to have,’” says Iris Grimm, creator of the Atlanta-based Balanced Physician program, which helps physicians meet work, life, and leadership challenges. “It is a necessity for them if they want to sustain a long-term career” as mentioned in a The-Hospitalist.org article.

How has Exertus Medical Solutions, Inc. helped their clients with work/life balance? “The key is matching the physician candidate with the right prospective employer,” according to Kammerdeiner. “Work life balance is such a broad term so finding out what that means to the employer as well as the physician is vital. Matching expectations is the ultimate key to a successful pairing.”

At Exertus, they don’t just utilize the standard software apps, used in the industry, to help make hospital/hospitalist matches.  They get highly personal according to Mr. Kammerdeiner. “But we have found nothing that replaces a direct conversation.  That is true for client and candidate.  We believe in a personal approach that can listen and ask direct questions lead to an understanding of what is truly important to both.”

So yes, there is indeed a hospitalist in the house.  The need for hospitalists continues to grow due to less and less people utilizing a primary care physician and focusing on their specialists. But, at the same time, there is clearly a need to assure that those hospitalists, as well as other healthcare workers, are able to achieve a work/life balance.