A moving target definition
As they make their way onto different department floors, defining what a typical hospitalist does may become challenging, according to the study.
"Hospitalists are doing a lot of different things in the hospital. In addition to the standard inpatient ward care, they are doing surgical comanagement, quality improvement activities, safety activities, ER staffing and triaging; they are doing a lot of things in addition to caring for inpatients," Vasilevskis said.
The study defined hospitalist, simply put, as a "physician who spends all or the majority of his or her clinical, administrative, educational, or research activities in the care of hospitalized patients."
Last month, the Society of Hospital Medicine released its official definition of a hospitalist as a "physician who specializes in the practice of hospital medicine. Following medical school, hospitalists typically undergo residency training in general internal medicine, general pediatrics, or family practice, but may also receive training in other medical disciplines."
According to Vasilevskis, the definition of a hospitalist depends on the place of practice in which he or she fulfills the needs and creates the job description.
Supporting extra training
As hospitalists expand the hats they wear and the roles they play, more of these physicians may require additional training or certification to work beyond their traditional comfort zone of the inpatient ward and more in the ICU and ED.
"Certification might be worth while," Vasilevskis said. "Hospitalists can provide and fulfill the skills that hospitals are seeking, and whether a hospitalist seeks those additional skills requires that matching between what a hospital wants and what do hospitalists have to offer."
According to the study, most leaders (64%) support extra training or certification for hospitalists.
"The good news is there is someone a) who is there to fulfill that need and b) someone who is willing to respond to that need," Vasilevskis said. "It's a nice marriage of what the C-suite is responding to and having the personnel to do it."
Karen M. Cheung is an associate editor for HCPro, contributing writer for HealthLeaders Media, and blogger for HospitalistLeadership.com. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.