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Hospitalists

The Job

Hospitalists, who also may be referred to as doctors or physicians are the medical professionals who care for patients when they are hospitalized. They serve as the single point of contact for patients from the time they are admitted through their discharge.

Traditionally, when patients needed to be hospitalized, their general practitioner or primary care physician admitted them and then coordinated their care plan during their hospital stay. They did rounds in the morning visiting hospitalized patients and then went back to their offices to deal with ambulatory patients and the rest of their medical practice.  

When hospitals started using hospitalists however, things changed. Patients began being admitted by hospitalists. Patients may be referred to hospitalists by their primary care physician or by emergency doctors, clinics, or even specialists.

Once a hospitalist diagnoses patient's conditions, it is their responsibility to treat them and develop a care plan. These individuals manage and coordinate a patient’s care and treatment throughout his or her stay. An important responsibility of hospitalists is addressing any questions and concerns that a patient or his or her family may have regarding the patient’s medical condition or care.

When patients are discharged, hospitalists refer them to resources helpful to their recovery and any ongoing treatment they may require. In many cases the hospitalist works with a hospital’s discharge team or social workers to assure that the patient will continue his or her treatment and have the resources needed to go home.

Hospitalists do not have private practices. Instead they work for a hospital or health care facility. In this capacity, they provide inpatient care in various types of settings including medical wards, acute care units, emergency rooms, intensive care units, or rehabilitation units or centers. After patients are discharged from the hospital or facility, they do not generally maintain a relationship with the hospitalist. Instead at that time they will go to their primary care physician for treatment.

Within the scope of their job, hospitalists have a great many responsibilities. To begin with, they care for patients during their hospital stay. Hospitalists discuss treatment options with patients and their families to help determine the best course of action. In order to do this it is necessary to know the patient’s medical history as well as any health issues. It should be noted that not every patient who is hospitalized has a primary care physician. However, when they do, the hospitalist will keep the physician updated on the patient’s treatment and condition.

Like other physicians, they prescribe medications and develop treatment regimens. They often refer patients to specialists or other professionals. In many cases, they will also collaborate with other hospital staff and medical professionals to assure the patient has the best care possible.

They may additionally order laboratory tests and X rays as well as interpreting the results. When patients are ready to be discharged from the facility, hospitalists are expected to write the discharge papers as well as assuring that patients are sent to their primary care physicians for follow up treatment.

Hospitalists may perform an array of general medical procedures ranging from catheterizations, to intubations to lumbar punctures to arterial punctures and more.

In many cases, hospitalists have supervisory responsibilities. They may direct, coordinate, and oversee the nursing and support staff in relation to patient care. Depending on the facility, they may also be expected to train and manage medical students, residents, and other health professionals on staff.

Depending on the specific employment setting and employment situation, some hospitalists are expected to run and direct the operations of specialty units within the facility. Some hospitalists also are involved in research.