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What Is a Hospitalist?


What is hospital medicine?

Hospital medicine is the medical specialty dedicated to providing comprehensive care to hospitalized patients.

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Hospital Medicine 101

What is a hospitalist?

A hospitalist is a clinician whose primary professional focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Hospitalists engage in clinical care, teaching, research and enhancing the performance of hospitals and healthcare system.

Hospitalists are focused around a site of care (the hospital) rather than an organ (like cardiology), a disease (like oncology) or a patient’s age (like pediatrics). Unlike other medical specialties, hospitalists help manage patients through the continuum of hospital care, often seeing patients in the emergency room, following them into the critical care unit and organizing post-acute care.  

Who identifies as a hospitalist?

Following medical school, physician hospitalists typically undergo residency training in general internal medicine, general pediatrics or family practice, but may also receive training in other medical disciplines. Nurse practitioners, physician assistants, practice administrators and practice managers that work in general internal medicine may also identify as hospitalists.

How hospitalists make a difference

  • Treating unassigned patients: Hospitalists provide a solution for the admission of unassigned general medicine and pediatric patients and allow primary care physicians to focus their time and attention on their office patients.
  • Reducing length of stay: Studies show that hospitalists can reduce patient lengths of stay up to 30 percent and can reduce hospital costs by up to 20 percent.
  • Maximizing throughput and improving patient flow: With their unique view of the continuum of care, hospitalists can positively affect throughput at every stage.
  • Taking on hospital leadership positions: To address the need for physician leaders, hospital administrators are increasingly offering leadership development opportunities to hospitalists as they are well positioned to view and change system processes.
  • Improving patient safety and quality of care: Many hospitalists are champions for quality improvement within their institutions. The demand for reductions in medical errors within the hospital setting and the demand for new ways of thinking about end-of-life care are catalyzing the growth of the hospital medicine specialty. 

Learn more about SHM and how we help propel hospital medicine forward.