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Taxes, death and being on call?

February 2015

Published in the February 2015 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

IT’S OFTEN SAID that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. For most physicians, at least historically, the other item on that list would be taking call.

While hospital medicine has greatly reduced the amount of call for both hospitalists and nonhospitalists, hospitalist programs everywhere find it challenging to man all their shifts. As our cover story points out, hospitalist groups are struggling to manage staffing shortfalls in part because they’ve taken over so many admissions at their hospitals.

That’s why some groups are turning to “jeopardy” systems, where physicians put some of their time off at jeopardy in case staffing comes up short or census surges. In these systems, you’re not officially on call, but you might still be called in when you’re supposed to be off.

When I first heard about jeopardy systems, I cringed. If I’m a hospitalist volunteering at my son’s school on my week off, I don’t want to get a call telling me to drop what I’m doing and come to work. Many of you chose hospital medicine because you wanted a predictable schedule, and jeopardy seems to contradict that security.

But our coverage points out that jeopardy systems can not only work, but they can boost the morale of the entire group. Everyone has been crushed by a surge in patient volume, and knowing that help from a colleague is a phone call away is a godsend. Knowing that you’ll get that same help when you need it may dull the pain of being called in to work at the last minute.

Not everyone takes such a positive view of jeopardy systems, however. Time will tell if the specialty can make these systems work or if groups can find other solutions for staffing shortages.

edoyleEdward Doyle
Editor & Publisher