The History of Hospitalist and Their Field
20 years ago, the term hospitalist didn’t even exist. Although a few hundred physicians specialized in hospital care, it wasn’t until 1996 that the New England Journal of Medicine first identified these doctors specifically as hospitalists. In the last decade, the practice has grown to include thousands of physicians dedicated to the care of seriously ill hospitalized patients; the term includes not only physicians, but also nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants.
The hospitalist specialty grew out of a need that physicians had to increase their outpatient business. In doing so, they found it difficult to manage increasingly heavier inpatient responsibilities. A hospitalist became the answer, taking care of complex hospital cases so that physicians did not have to split time between their daily practice and their hospitalized patients. The need further grew in 2003 when significant changes in internal medicine residency requirements were instituted by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. These changes included mandated work hour limits and an increased concentration on outpatient training. Hospitalists have filled this need, creating an ever growing requirement for more doctors to join the specialty. Hospitalists care for patients 24 hours a day, on weekends and holidays. They focus on quality of care for hospitalized patients, and provide a critical information bridge between patients, their physicians and the hospital staff. At its core, a hospitalist career is dedicated to safe, high quality customer-centric care.
Demographically, hospitalists have generally been from internist and family practice specialties; but recently practices as varied as dermatology and psychiatry have also embraced this model of care. The largest group of doctors practicing as hospitalists has traditionally been seasoned physicians looking to add variety and flexibility to their careers. However, with hospitalist numbers predicted to multiply into the tens of thousands in the next few years, a dynamic and versatile specialty as a hospitalist is a path that many medical students are now considering to begin their careers.