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2021: Year 2 finally ends

Covering covid and more

December 2021

COVID DOMINATED hospital medicine again this year. While it was hard to keep up with all changes the pandemic caused, here are some of this year’s Today’s Hospitalist highlights:

We started off the year looking at hospital at home (January-February), a (not-so-new) care model that finally took off in 2021. The pandemic gave hospital at home a big push—and, at very long last, some actual reimbursement.

But this year’s other big stories tackled covid realities more directly. “Can you handle record-high volumes?” (September-October), looked at exploding hospital census, while “Women hospitalists and the pandemic” delved into how many women hospitalists handled outsized demands in both their personal and professional lives.

Are your nurses heading for the door?” (November-December) reported on some very tough developments: health care workers’ exhaustion and the salary wars that have left hospitals short-staffed. And “Coping together” (March-April) acknowledged how hospitalists are struggling to stave off burnout.

But perhaps this year’s key cover story was “Innovating during the pandemic” (May-June). A specialty borne out of the need to transform hospital care took that flexibility and ran with it, driving unprecedented innovation in leadership, collaboration and new work roles.

Meanwhile, our features this year gave a nod to all the other medicine hospitalists practice, including choosing the right diuretic for heart failure (July-August), as well as career development (July-August) and successful recruiting (September-October).

And perhaps one feature best suggests the possibility of a post-pandemic career: “Raises and subsidies are back on the table” (May-June).

Our in-depth coverage of new research touched on practice variations among ED physicians (“Is the ED admitting too many patients?” May-June) and both locum hospitalists (March-April) and sliding scale insulin (November-December) finally getting some respect. We also reported on malpractice claims (September-October), payoffs from performance feedback (May-June) and how to streamline admission decisions (September-October) in teaching hospitals.

Marcy Achterhof, MSM, RNThis year’s reporting on successful quality improvement projects ranged from clinical topics—how to manage antibody infusions (September-October) and prevent delirium (November-December)—to tips on negotiating compensation (May-June).

Importantly, “Making sure everyone stays connected” (March-April) delved into how a buddy system can help colleagues talk about stress.

Our January/February profile of hospitalist Lilia Cervantes, MD, of Denver Health, highlighted how one patient’s needless death spurred Dr. Cervantes’ new interests in both research and patient advocacy. Through those two endeavors, she helped change state Medicaid policy. “As clinicians,” Dr. Cervantes says, “we have a social responsibility to be involved.”

We were fortunate again this year to have superb physician authors share key career and personal insights: what a nocturnist loves about working nights (November-December); a physician coming face to face—during the end of his father’s life (May-June)—with a hospitalist team reluctant to follow patient wishes; and how a hospitalist’s disagreement with a nurse might reflect gender bias (July-August). The commentary that struck the rawest nerve, “Dying after leaving AMA” (September-October), described a covid patient who insisted on leaving the hospital only to pass away the next day. “This is where we are,” the author wrote. “Patients leaving AMA and dying because there is no trust anymore.”

Houston hospitalist Stella Fitzgibbons, MD, in “So you want to be an expert witness?” (July-August), looked at the legal side of hospital medicine and “a hugely interesting job.”

And we ran two fabulous “Progress Notes,” the comic collaboration between hospitalist Leo Motter, MD, and his illustrator colleague Dan Langsdale. “The balance of sacrifice in the covid era” (March-April) looked at what’s been asked of health care workers during the pandemic vs. the demands on the public. And “The rollercoaster of stupid” (September-October) captured this year’s insanity of hoax-mongering and disinformation.

Stay safe and be well. Many thanks to all those who shared their time and stories with us, that’s always been a great privilege, and to everyone for reading.

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