Hospitalist definition

  • Hospitalists are doctors who provide general medical care of patients staying in hospitals. They usually take care of patients in intensive care units, medical wards, rehabilitation centers, acute care units, or emergency rooms.

  • Hospitalist duties and tasks

    A hospitalist directs, supervises, or coordinates the patient care activities that should be fulfilled by the nurses or medical support staff. Hospitalists prescribe medications or develop treatment plans for their patients. They order diagnostic tests and interpret the results of those tests, such as X-rays or other lab tests. They also attend inpatient consultations if their specialty is involved. They decide whether patients need hospital stay.

    Hospitalists conduct discharge planning and release patients from their hospital stay. They prepare patient discharge summaries and send them for review to the patient’s primary care physicians.

    Once the patient is admitted to the hospital, hospitalists communicate with the primary care physicians of the patient. They also continue coordinating with the physician when they decide to change the treatment plan or discharge the patients to continue giving them the same level of care.

    Learn more about How to become a hospitalist.

    The operations of specialty units or short stay units fall under the job description of a hospitalist. The doctor also trains and supervises medical residents, students, and other health care professionals.

    Hospitalist responsibilities

    When patients are hospitalized, a hospitalist serves as the surrogate of the patient’s family doctor or primary care physician. The doctor also plays the role of a point person to coordinate and manage patient care.

    Hospitalist patient care

    Hospitalists perform an initial examination of the patient upon admission. They also interview patients and keep in touch with the patient’s regular physician to ask for medical records. They discuss the treatment plan with the regular doctor and consider any special circumstances in the case of the patient. They order tests, refer the patient to other specialists if needed, and update the patient and the patient’s primary care physician of any developments.

    Hospitalist follow up 

    Although a patient’s primary care physician can still see the patient, hospitalists have more access to the patients to perform a follow-up. They can monitor the condition of the patients, observe how the medications or surgical procedures have affected them, and watch for any side effects. Hospitalists also review the results of the diagnostic tests with the patients and the primary care physician. It is important for them to provide consistent attention to the condition of the patients to prevent treatment errors and improve the outcome.

    Find out more about What is a hospitalist.

    Hospitalist work environment

    Hospitalists have to endure the stress and pressure of their work. They fulfill the role of more than just a doctor as they have to manage the patients 24/7, according to the American College of Physicians. Work is usually scheduled seven days in a week, with 12-hour shifts during the day. Some hospitals even require their hospitalists to rotate evening shifts with other hospitalists. However, they might find alternatives in the person of the hospital staff, only to be called to work in case of emergencies.

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