Hospitalists are one of the keys to patient care and recovery. They can be considered primary care physicians who work one-on-one with hospital patients and help to coordinate care with specialists. For example, if a patient is in the hospital for a cardiac procedure, the hospitalist will be the point of connection between the patient and the surgeon. The hospitalist can also help the patient receive more care through connected hospitals and health care systems.
The work of a hospitalist is not well-known outside the medical field. The field was first defined as a separate specialty in 1996. Dr. Masud Habibullah, a hospitalist from Georgia, explains the work of hospitalists and how they can benefit patient health and outcomes.
What is a hospitalist?
A hospitalist is similar to a primary care physician but conducts their services within a hospital. This is not the only function of a hospitalist. Many hospitalists are also engaged in leadership or research positions, as well as educating new physicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners. Hospitalists also work in patient education, teaching them healthy habits that can foster their recovery outside the hospital.
As the specialty has developed, hospitalists have gone from being labeled as the primary care doctor in a hospital setting to being recognized for their own special contributions. Hospitalists can function in different specialties like cardiac health, obstetrics, and orthopedic specialties.
Where can hospitalists be found?
Hospitalists can be found in hospitals large and small. In smaller hospitals, they often take on extra duties to become even more integral to the patient’s care team. Hospitalists work in large surgical centers and small regional hospitals alike. They are charged with the patient’s wellness both during and after their hospital stay.
What does a hospitalist do?
Hospitalists have a wide range of career duties. They may originally come from MD or DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) programs. They may also have a primary care or family medicine specialty.
The hospitalist works closely with the nurses on the care team to provide a continuum of care for the patients. Having a hospitalist means that nurses have more guidance than they would receive if they were helped by the attending physician or specialist alone.
Hospitalists monitor a patient’s vital signs in conjunction with the nurses, making sure that everything is going smoothly before or after a procedure. The hospitalist may order additional tests to make sure that the patient is well enough for surgery.
They help to treat the underlying disorders that may have put the patient in the hospital, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and gynecological conditions. When a patient is in close contact with a hospitalist, their outcomes are likely to be better.
Hospitalists also work in educating new physicians and nurses. They can be an integral part of the staff at any teaching hospital. Since they have a broad range of specialties, they can be helpful to student doctors and nurses of all kinds.
The hospitalist also helps to educate patients about how they should manage their chronic conditions. They make sure that patients understand their discharge requirements and help patients make adjustments to their lifestyles that will keep them out of the hospital as much as possible in the future.
Hospitalists are also skilled research physicians. Hospitalists’ research includes the quality of health care services received. They research the best ways for all doctors and nurses to work together in service of their common goal of keeping a healthier population. One of their stated goals is to reduce hospital readmissions, and research can help them toward this goal.
Why do doctors become hospitalists?
Physicians may become interested in becoming hospitalists after they have admitted patients to the hospital from their own practices. They may become fascinated with the process of supporting a patient through a difficult time in their lives. They may also be interested in improving the overall standard of care at their hospital.
When they engage in research, their goal is to find procedures that can improve patient outcomes not only in their own hospital but in any hospital around the country.
Taking care to explore all of the facets of hospital medicine requires a curious mind and a broad skill set. Doctors who want to become hospitalists are often interested in a variety of different medical specialties. They become experts at dealing with various other specialties, like cardiothoracic surgery and neurology.
While they cannot perform these specialties themselves, they learn enough to help the specialist give the patient the best treatment possible.
The Special Role of a Hospitalist
While the specialty of hospitalists has only recently been defined, hospitalists play an incredibly important part in the day-to-day function of every hospital in which they work. Taking the hospitalist’s career to the next level involves research that can benefit hospitalized patients everywhere.
Dr. Masud Habibullah believes that the hospitalist has a unique importance in the United States health care system and that they can do even more to help patients achieve better outcomes.