Home From The Editor Hospital medicine: Should one size fit all?

Hospital medicine: Should one size fit all?

May 2015

Published in the May 2015 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

For years, hospitalists have been wringing their hands over how to make their specialty sustainable. Even young physicians get tired of working blocks of 12-hour shifts (with a regular dose of nights mixed in), particularly when they have young families.

But as generation Xers near or pass the half-century mark, some hospitalists are saying they need a change not just because they want to spend more time with their families, but because they are done with handling the brutal pace.

These physicians, some of whom we talked to in our cover story, say that working a combination of nights and 12-hour shifts just doesn’t work for them physically anymore. Some are deciding to work fewer shifts “or thinking about leaving hospital medicine altogether.

None of this should come as a surprise. While hospital medicine was founded by young physicians, that group is starting to age. But as our article points out, few practices have taken steps to address the needs of senior physicians.

Groups worry that if they give older doctors concessions when it comes to working nights or long shifts, they’ll face the wrath of younger hospitalists who will vote with their feet and find another job. There is still such a shortage of hospitalists in many parts of the country, the argument goes, that groups can’t afford to alienate younger hospitalists by catering to those who are older.

That logic is understandable, but it may be short-sighted. The workforce shortage means that the specialty can’t afford to lose its most senior members to fatigue. And building in more flexibility may attract more doctors of all ages.

As our story points out, some groups have come up with solutions. But with few practices actively considering strategies to retain senior hospitalists, the problem will likely get worse before it gets better.

edoyleEdward Doyle
Editor & Publisher
edoyle@todayshospitalist.com