The term “hospitalist” is a relatively new designation that refers to a physician who practices “hospital medicine.” By this we mean providing comprehensive medical care to patients who are hospitalized. But beyond solely coordinating clinical care and managing the cases of the acutely ill, hospitalists also focus on enhancing and improving the performance of their hospital and the healthcare system.

A hospitalist cares for patients in the hospital and serve as the point person or “captain of the ship” for individual patients’ cases, managing communication among various doctors. As the point of contact for nurses and other physicians, hospitalists provide case updates, oversee the patient’s plan of care, answer questions about the patient’s case, and act as the primary contact for family members.

Some responsibilities of a hospitalist include:

  • Providing immediate patient care such as diagnosis, treatment, and procedures (when applicable)
  • Communicating with other doctors and health workers involved in a patient’s care
  • Coordinating procedures among physicians involved in a patient’s care
  • Transitioning a patient through the system, whether within a hospital or transferring to a facility beyond the hospital doors

Hospitalists typically train in internal medicine, pediatrics, or family medicine. Some hospitalists choose to pursue additional post-residency training in hospital medicine, such as the American Board of Family Medicine’s (ABFM) Recognition of Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine (RFPHM) program. According to a recent survey, the 2010 hospitalist salary in a nationwide average for all cash compensation (not including benefits) was $215,000. 

More residency programs are beginning to build hospitalist tracks that emphasize specific care and skills, and fellowship programs are emerging that are specifically developed with hospitalists medicine in mind. Hospitalist CME courses offer a wide range of subjects.

According to the Society of Hospital Medicine, the number of hospitalists has grown from a few hundred 10 years ago to more than 30,000 hospitalists now practicing. This growth is a result of the changing role of primary care doctors, as well as research reflecting the value of hospital medicine in regard to cost and patient satisfaction.

For more information

Learn more about hospitalists at the Society of Hospital Medicine. 

Check out Medicine Net to learn more about what a hospitalist does