Paging Dr. Nightowl

January 6, 2009
Sean Johnson

Hospitalists have seen their responsibility grow exponentially, and this has translated into greater responsibility and decision making in all facets of hospital medicine.

As hospitalists continue to be in high demand, they are starting to see their roles evolve. Many hospitalists have seen their responsibility grow exponentially, and this has translated into greater responsibility and decision making in all facets of hospital medicine. As covered in previous posts, hospitals continue to seek advice from hospitalists in all aspects of information technology, and many have even instituted advisory councils specifically for this. This responsibility seems to have been given to the right people, because all signs point to a rapidly growing field that is experiencing great success: hospitalists have been reported to provide better care through “teamwork,” and patients seem to have reported positive experiences. But now that hospitalists are in such high demand, the hours they are asked to work are beginning to be affected, something that has recently been covered in ACP Hospitalist, a journal of the American College of Physicians.

The cover story of the December issue, titled “Physicians of the night,” does a nice job of calling attention to the dilemma that hospitals are now being face with, which is how to get their hospitalists to work the night shift more often. According to the article, studies show that “disparities between day and night care, as well as new guidelines and public pressure, are pushing hospital administrators and hospitalist practices to offer 24/7 care,” but that “continuing workforce shortages mean that hospitalists can be choosy about their schedules, and many of them prefer to work only days.” In fact, a study by the Society of Hospital Medicine found that only 6% of polled hospitalists would be willing to work nights.

So the question becomes, what are you going to say when you are asked to help even out the disparity in day and night care by working the graveyard shift? What kind of demands would need to be met in order to sway you? Better pay? More time off? Let us know what you think about this developing issue.