John Nelson writes…
If you’re a hospitalist, you’re probably asked periodically to describe what a hospitalist does, and have probably developed a fairly standard response. When in a social setting my response is that I’m a doctor that provides non-surgical care of adult hospitalized patients, like those with pneumonia, heart failure, stroke and other such problems. When asked by a patient or family in the hospital, I usually give an answer that is more customized to the patient’s particular medical problem.
In November 2009 the SHM Board of Directors approved a new definition of a hospitalist and Hospital Medicine. The former SHM definition of a hospitalist was built on a doctor whose primary professional focus was the general medical care of hospitalized patients along with some other elements. But the new definition is much more explicit in specifying that not only do hospitalists take care of hospitalized patients, they also work on organizational issues like quality improvement, effective care transitions, efficient use of resources, etc.
If in a social setting you’re casually asked what a hospitalist is or what you do for a living, it probably isn’t necessary to say a lot about systems improvement work; it might be more than the questioner really wanted to know. But all of us who think of ourselves as hospitalists should clearly understand that our job is more than just showing up to work and being a good doctor for the patients on our list today. We also need to be working to make our hospital a better and safer place. Regardless of how your job description is written, that sort of organizational or “systems” work is what the healthcare system expects of us.