As people live longer and face more complex health issues, the need for specialized care for hospitalized patients by healthcare professionals is increasing. These professionals are hospitalists, and they play a pivotal role in healthcare. But what exactly is a hospitalist and why are they becoming increasingly important? 

That’s what this blog is all about—the vital role these professionals play in patient care, how to become a hospitalist, the pros and cons of becoming one, and how to determine if this career is right for you. So join us and learn how these professionals are making their mark in healthcare. 

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What Is a Hospitalist?

A hospitalist is a medical physician specializing in comprehensive care for hospitalized patients. They work exclusively in the hospital, coordinate care with other physicians, improve patient safety, and help patients transition from the hospital to their home.  

Although they do not follow a specific study path, hospitalists undergo comprehensive training in areas such as internal medicine, geriatrics, and pediatrics. This diverse training equips them to effectively treat patients of different demographics. Hospitalists focus exclusively on the care of hospitalized patients. This role is distinct from primary care physicians, specialists, and other medical professionals who often have both outpatient and inpatient responsibilities. 

In the past, hospitalized patients were treated by their primary care physicians, who also saw patients in their offices and completed other clinical tasks, limiting the time they could spend with their hospitalized patients. Therefore, having physicians, such as hospitalists, dedicated to caring for inpatients increased the quality of care and attention each patient received. Moreover, they have advanced knowledge of hospital medicine and experience caring for a hospitalized patient’s complex medical needs. This means that, as they collaborate with the patient’s primary physicians and specialists, they ensure that their patients receive comprehensive care during their stay in a hospital. 

What Does a Hospitalist Do?

Hospitalists provide ongoing medical treatment for hospitalized patients. They’re in charge of the patient’s medical staff and coordinate the care the patients receive. The primary responsibilities of hospitalists include:

  • Providing pain care management
  • Prescribing medication
  • Taking medical histories
  • Admitting patients into the hospital from the Emergency room
  • Providing information on test results, treatment options, and potential risk factors to patients and family members
  • Performing physical examinations
  • Following up with a patient’s primary care provider after their hospital stay
  • Ordering lab tests, X-rays, and other imaging scans
  • Discharging patients from the hospital
  • Educating patients and their families on healthy practices

Another crucial component of the daily work of hospitalists is collaborating with other healthcare professionals. They ensure comprehensive treatment by updating patient records and remaining in constant contact with other professionals. Clear and timely communication between hospitalists and members of the medical team also reduces the risk of medical errors. Moreover, coordination ensures smooth transitions between stages of care, from admission to discharge and beyond.  

Benefits of Working as a Hospitalist

If you’re considering a career in medicine, pursuing a career as a hospitalist offers numerous advantages, such as:

  • Work-life balance: As a hospitalist, you often work in shifts, which can provide more predictable hours and scheduled time off, enhancing work-life balance and allowing for rest.
  • Job security: The demand for hospitalists continues to grow as hospitals recognize the need for dedicated inpatient care providers.
  • Opportunities for professional growth: After gaining experience, you can take on leadership positions within hospitals, pursue teaching opportunities, or venture into telehealth services.

Now, let’s look at what makes this profession so rewarding from the perspective of hospitalists themselves. In an article for the American Medical Association, Dr. Kira Gupta states that the most rewarding part of being a hospitalist is caring for patients and doing so as part of a team. Additionally, in an article for The Hospitalist, doctors Allison Ashford, M.D., Rachna Rawal, M.D., and Teela Crecelius, M.D., state that as a hospitalist, you have the opportunity to grow and change your career over time. 

Challenges Faced by Hospitalists

Despite being a gratifying and fulfilling career, being a hospitalist comes with its challenges. Some common challenges hospitals encounter include:

  • Emotional toll: Being regularly exposed to critically ill patients, challenging medical cases, and difficult decisions can lead to emotional exhaustion, compassion fatigue, and burnout. To avoid this, you must prioritize self-care and seek support from professionals, friends, or family to cope with the emotional challenges you may encounter in your daily work.
  • High patient volume: Due to the nature of your work, you may often have to manage a large number of patients simultaneously, which can be physically and mentally taxing. To avoid this, you can foster a collaborative team environment that distributes the workload and ensures an effective workflow.
  • Complex cases: As a hospitalist, you may frequently deal with patients with severe and complex conditions, requiring swift and accurate decision-making. To ensure you’re making the best decision for your patient, you can engage in continuous professional development to stay updated on the latest medical advancements. You can also seek advice and collaborate with specialists to develop comprehensive treatment plans. 

Hospitalist Education and Training

hospitalist-education-and-training

Becoming a hospitalist involves a rigorous educational and training journey that includes:

  • Undergraduate Degree: As an aspiring hospitalist, you must first complete a bachelor’s degree, typically with a focus on pre-medical courses such as biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
  • Medical School: After earning a bachelor’s degree, the next step is attending medical school to earn either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. Medical school typically lasts four years and includes classroom and laboratory education and clinical rotations in various medical specialties.
  • Residency Training: The next step is completing residency training in one of the primary care specialties: internal medicine, family medicine, or pediatrics. This training allows you to gain in-depth training in treating and managing a wide range of medical conditions. Moreover, you develop the clinical skills necessary for quality patient care. Remember, you can also pursue residency training in other specialties like neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, and oncology. 
  • Fellowship Training (optional): While not required, you can choose to pursue additional fellowship training in a subspecialty, such as critical care hospitalist, pediatric hospital medicine, etc., which can provide further expertise and open more career opportunities.
  • Board Certification: Though you can be a licensed hospitalist without certification, board certification from your primary specialty (family medicine, pediatrics, or internal medicine) can help you build credibility in the field. Board certification also opens more job opportunities in hospitals or educational institutions. In recent years, board certification has become available for hospitalists, so you can become board-certified through the American Board of Hospital Medicine.

After becoming a fully-fledged physician, like other medical careers, you must engage in continuing medical education (CME) after becoming a hospitalist. CME allows you to stay current with medical advancements, new treatments, and improved practices. 

What Are Some Hospitalist Subspecialties?

Hospital medicine is constantly developing, so there is a wide range of subspecialties in which you can choose to pursue, such as:

  • Critical care hospitalist: Care for critically ill patients in intensive care units (ICUs)
  • Pediatric hospital medicine: Care for hospitalized children, from infants to adolescents
  • Neurohospitalist: Care for hospitalized patients who are being treated for neurological conditions

Subspecialization in either one of these areas can significantly enhance your career by offering the following:

  • Specialized knowledge in a specific area of medicine
  • Opportunities in leadership positions, such as medical director or chief medical officer
  • Job satisfaction and fulfillment by working in an area of medicine you’re passionate about
  • Enhanced expertise in managing complex cases, leading to improved patient outcomes

Salary and Job Outlook

The salary for hospitalists can vary widely based on several factors, such as experience and location. As of recent data, the average salary for hospitalists is $258,735. The salary range typically falls between $227,524 (25th percentile) and $293,093 (75th percentile).

Let’s explore the factors that influence hospitalist salaries.

  • Experience: Generally, as a new hospitalist, you can expect to start at the lower end of the salary range, with your estimated salary being $10,249 less than the average salary. As you gain experience or pursue leadership positions, you can expect to earn at the higher end of the range.
  • Location: Salaries can be higher in urban areas with a higher cost of living, whereas rural areas may offer lower ones. Additionally, different states and regions offer varying salary levels. For example, you can expect a higher salary in states like New York and Pennsylvania than in Florida and Arkansas.

The BLS specifies the employment growth for physicians and surgeons, which is 3%, equating to about 24,200 openings annually over the decade. Despite being relatively new, hospital medicine is the fastest-growing medical specialty, with over 50,000 hospitalists in the present. This growth is due to the recognized benefits of having hospitalists for hospitalized patients presenting complex cases.  

Is a Hospitalist Career Right for You?

Deciding if a hospitalist career is right for you involves careful consideration of your professional goals, personal values, and lifestyle preferences. Here is a list of questions you need to consider to determine if a hospitalist career aligns with your future goals.

  • Do you thrive in building relationships with patients during their hospital stay, even though it may be relatively short?
  • Are you comfortable working shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays?
  • Do you like general medicine?
  • Do you enjoy working in the hospital environment?
  • Do you enjoy collaborating with others?
  • Are you more interested in continuity of care with long-term patient relationships, or do you prefer managing different cases regularly?
  • Do you see yourself advancing into leadership positions within a hospital?

Conclusion

Hospitalists are pivotal in providing specialized, comprehensive care to hospitalized patients, ensuring seamless communication and coordination among the medical team. Their expertise in managing various conditions within the hospital setting improves patient outcomes and hospital efficiency. Therefore, they play a critical role in the modern healthcare landscape.

If you’re passionate about patient care and thrive in dynamic environments like hospitals, a career as a hospitalist might be the perfect fit for you. So, take the first step toward this fulfilling career by checking out our M.D. program and joining the ranks of our highly skilled students. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What’s the difference between a hospitalist and an internist?

The main difference between a hospitalist and an internist is that hospitalists practice in hospital environments, whereas internists practice in both hospital and outpatient settings. 

Does a hospitalist have different skills than a PCP?

Hospitalists and primary care physicians (PCPs) have similar training and skills. However, while hospitalists are experts in managing acute conditions and inpatient care, PCPs focus on long-term, preventive, and outpatient care. 

What is the difference between a hospitalist and an ER physician?

Hospitalists manage the comprehensive care of patients during their hospital stay. On the other hand, ER physicians provide urgent and emergent care to stabilize patients who come to the emergency department. 

How long does it take to become a hospitalist?

It can take 11 years after high school to become a hospitalist. This includes four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school, and three years of residency training. 

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