Published in the March 2014 issue of Today’s Hospitalist
How important is it for hospitalists to finish their shift? In this month’s cover story, we address that question. But I’m afraid we leave readers with a less-than-definitive answer.
At first blush, the answer seems obvious: If hospitalists are being paid to work 12 hours, they should stay in the hospital for 12 hours. Leaving before your shift is up not only seems dishonest, but it makes your program “and even the whole specialty “look bad.
But take a closer look at the issues around hospitalist work hours, and that logic quickly breaks down. Hospitalists work extra hours all the time, so what’s so bad about leaving a little early when things are slow?
As I read the article, it occurred to me that hospitalists should perhaps be trying to answer a different question. Instead of focusing on the days that hospitalists leave a little early, shouldn’t they be tracking the time they put in above and beyond their scheduled shifts?
When one hospital we talked to did just that, administrators were surprised to learn that hospitalists were in the hospital for most of their shift. Administrators also realized that even when hospitalists weren’t physically in the hospital, they were available by pager.
Whether it’s right or wrong, it seems to me that hospitalists who want to leave a little early when the workload slows down would do well to keep track of their hours, if only for a month or two, just to show how often they really do duck out. I suspect that many of you will find that you end up staying late more than leaving early.
But as our article points out: If you discover that you and your colleagues cut out early on a regular basis, you might want to be prepared to answer some tough questions from your hospital’s administration.
Editor & Publisher