EMPLOYER: Sound Physicians
What do you like best about being a hospitalist?
My schedule. As hospitalists, we work shifts. At the end of the day, we turn our pagers off and we’re done. At my former hospitalist job, I worked seven days on and seven days off, so that was a nice schedule. In my current position, I’m required to work 15 shifts a month. It leaves you with 15 to 16 days off a month. You also have the option of working as much as you want to. For example, you can work 20 to 22 shifts a month. I can work more to make more. However, it’s nice to only be required to work 15 to 16 days so I can see more of my family. The shifts are scheduled for 12 hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
I like the ability to practice inpatient medicine as opposed to outpatient clinic practice. I prefer the flow…higher intensity of more ill patients versus clinic patients. I have a good group of people to work with. I practice with about 24 physicians. Eight or nine of us are on during the day. We get along well—it’s a congenial atmosphere. Everyone looks out for one another versus everyone being in for themselves trying to one out somebody for more patients, more money.
What don’t you like about being a hospitalist?
The days can be long. The 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift is probably a longer day than for somebody who has their own outpatient practice. For a hospitalist, it’s a 12-hour day opposed to an 8-hour day. With this day-to-day kind of work, I probably see my children less than somebody who goes in a little later. They may have breakfast with their kids and maybe see them a few hours before they put them to bed. Some days, I don’t see my kids at all. I’m gone before they’re up and I’m home after they’ve gone to bed. We have to cover the nights, so that’s a little rough. You can find yourself at 35, 40, 45 years of age and still covering the night shift.
Of those 15 shifts I work a month, three have to be night shifts. Although, nights pay a little better. You’re seeing more patients, you’re probably billing more.
Why did you choose this job?
Originally, schedule. Getting out of residency, I liked the seven on, seven off schedule. I also liked inpatient versus outpatient. For me, it was less boring for lack of a better word.
Do you have any advice you’d give to other physicians who are considering becoming hospitalists?
For hospitalists, it’s a pretty wide-open field in the job market. There are opportunities almost everywhere. So you need to make sure you’re happy in the city or the part of the country you’re in. Hospital work is hospital work across the board. The last place I worked was in a part of the country we weren’t really happy with. I liked the job very much but didn’t like that part of the country. That’s why we moved to Denver, which is more suitable for our family lifestyle. So that would be my advice: Make sure you are happy and your family is happy in the place you’re living.
Was there anything that surprised you about being a hospitalist?
I don’t know if “surprised” is the right word. It can be frustrating to see a patient continuously come back to your emergency room due to bad lifestyle choices after you’ve counseled them extensively and helped them out with the hospital’s resources to get them on track to making the right choices. The taxpayer is responsible for every unfunded, uninsured patient regardless of their lifestyle choices.
The other thing physicians who are getting into this field should realize is that your workload gets harder as years go by. I think there’s a misconception that when you get out of residency, it’s going to be easier. It’s really the opposite. Life gets a little more intense when you’re out of training rather than when you’re in training. The buck stops with you ultimately as opposed to when you’re in training and there’s always somebody to co-sign your order.
How would a physician go about finding a job such as yours?
I’d start with the geographical area you’d be happy in then start the search there. Target where you think you’re going to be happy mentally and emotionally first, and then try to find the job based on that. Others may say to go for the most accredited or widely recognized hospital wherever it is. Maybe you want to work, for example, at Johns Hopkins. Just make sure you’re happy at home first.
Do you have any objective tips on how to land a hospitalist job?
I always use this adage: A good doctor is a good doctor. They’ll find work anywhere regardless of training, background, gender or ethnicity. A good doctor will be well received. Interviews for hospitalists don’t tend to be real intense. I think it’s a buyer’s market for the physician because of shortages. Be yourself, be honest, and if you’re ready to work, there’s a place for you. Stay in the game. Medicine is always changing.
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