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Hospital medicine’s age deficit

August 2011

Published in the August 2011 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

Is hospital medicine’s relative youth a liability? Two stories in this month’s issue get at that question by looking at trends that are related to the specialty’s plethora of 30- and 40-somethings.

According to data from our most recent survey, the mean age of hospitalists is just over 42. When it comes to an area like family leave, that means an awful lot of physicians are starting or growing their families “and looking for big chunks of time off.

Hospitalists report that getting to know each other’s young arrivals is a lovely side benefit of hospital medicine. But our cover story examines how hospitalist groups are meeting physicians’ requests for family leave while still covering patients. A common strategy, not surprisingly, is for everyone else to see more patients, but that approach risks burning out the rest of the team.

There are signs that hospitalists’ age may also be a factor in the job satisfaction of academic hospitalists. As this month’s Analysis explains, a recent survey of academic hospitalists found that many physicians are unhappy with their careers, and that burnout is not uncommon.

A big part of the problem is that academic hospitalists are spending most of their time on patient care and have little time to pursue scholarly interests like research. But a related issue is that there are too few mentors, in part because hospitalists as a group are so young. There simply aren’t enough grayheads around to give advice and support to younger colleagues.

What’s the solution? While there’s no way to increase the average age of hospitalists overnight, both stories identify strategies that the specialty can use to blunt the impact of its age deficit. Considering the challenges the specialty faces, hospitalists need to think about implementing those strategies in their groups.

edoyleEdward Doyle
Editor & Publisher