How are ObGyn Hospitalists Different from General ObGyns?

The only difference between ob.gyn. hospitalists and general ob.gyns. is work location, right? We all undergo the same residency training, pass the same boards to become board certified, and you have to be a general ob.gyn. to become a hospitalist after all. So, in one sense, there are no differences.

In addition to clinical skills, however, hospitalists do differ. As I outlined in my column “Ob.Gyn. Hospitalist Character Traits,” a hospitalist must be a seasoned professional and a team player, be willing to serve, inspire trust, be a good communicator, and be trained and incentivized to implement system-wide improvements.

Along with character traits, it is generally acknowledged that ob.gyn. hospitalists possess a specific set of core competencies. I began trying to formally define these during my first American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists annual clinical meeting (ACM) clinical seminar in 2010.

Dr. Bob Fagnant expanded on the initial ideas in a presentation at the second Ob.Gyn. Hospitalists’ special interest group meeting at the 2011 ACOG ACM in Washington, D.C. His presentation was well received, drew much interest from a large audience, and has initiated discussion that continues. The Society of Ob.Gyn. Hospitalists (SOGH) also has dedicated itself to defining the core competencies, but as this is such a new model of ob.gyn. practice, there is much yet to be debated, and discussion should be expected and encouraged.

As stated above, the ideal hospitalist should be a seasoned professional. ObGynHospitalistConsulting.com employment surveys from the past 2 years showed that only 7% of ob.gyn. hospitalists started hospitalist work within 5 years of completing their residency. I think all of us agree that it is very difficult for a new residency graduate to acquire the skills and experience to step in and perform as a hospitalist. Not to say that it’s impossible, just very difficult in light of most residency volumes combined with residency hour restrictions.

One idea that I have heard several academic centers beginning to discuss is that of a fellowship for ob.gyn. hospitalists. Advanced training in a fellowship could provide more experience for new graduates, but it would be especially helpful for experienced, board-certified ob.gyn. hospitalists to hone not only their clinical skills, but also learn the administrative, simulation teaching, team leadership, and information management skills to take existing hospitalist programs from good to great and to start new programs at the highest skill level.

This idea is in its infancy and faces obstacles. Most experienced ob.gyns. may be unwilling to leave their current private practice positions and return to the lifestyle, hours, and, especially, the payoff of a fellow. However, there may be creative solutions similar to executive MBA programs, such as online learning, reviewing curricula designed by the academic center, and periodically traveling to the center for weekends or more prolonged times for the hands-on clinical training and experience portion over a year or two. Introduction of a new additional program needs to be handled carefully because such a program for hospitalists cannot reduce or take away from the clinical training experience of current residents and maternal-fetal medicine fellows.

Like the development of the core competencies necessary for ob.gyn. hospitalists, it will be fascinating to watch the development of academic programs for ob.gyn. hospitalist fellows. It will be exciting to see the first graduates and even more exciting to see the first board-certified ob.gyn. hospitalist in a new subspecialty. Will an old hospitalist like me get grandfathered in if I can pass the new (yet to be determined) American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ board certification for ob.gyn. hospitalists?

We are lucky to have the SOGH in a position to hear discussion and debate and to advocate for commonly agreed-upon positions. There are so many questions to answer to define the difference between general ob.gyns. and hospitalist ob.gyns., but we are on the cusp of not an evolution in care for women in the hospital, but a revolution. The future is unknown, but the direction from the known is extremely positive. Not only is patient care becoming safer, but the system is becoming safer and more cost efficient while at the same time improving the lifestyle of the general ob.gyn. practitioner. This last sentence will be backed up by data and experience in the near future, I predict.

Originally published JANUARY 18, 2013 for clinicalpsychiatrynews.com

Character Traits of an ObGyn Hospitalist

Through my experience as an ob.gyn. hospitalist, it quickly became clear which things work well and which things do not in an ob.gyn. hospitalist program.

Although internal medicine and pediatrics have been using the hospitalist model for quite some time, it is still a model in its infancy for ob.gyn. medicine. With hospitals investing significant amounts of funding to start ob.gyn. hospitalist programs, there is neither time nor money to waste on pursuing the things that don’t work. The expectation is that even though it’s a new program, it should work almost immediately.

Those who have been through the torturous process of establishing, integrating, and/or converting to any new program in any aspect of life know that this is a fairly unrealistic expectation. There are, however, some basic ingredients or attributes that I believe must be present to lessen the pain and increase an ob.gyn. hospitalist program’s chances of success.

The following are some qualities that should be considered when ob.gyn. hospitalist candidates are interviewed:

• A physician who is a seasoned professional. Finding and then hiring the right people are always challenges in any industry, but even more so for ob.gyn. hospitalist recruitment. The best candidates for ob.gyn. hospitalist jobs need to be seasoned board-certified physicians. Not only will they be involved in every true ob.gyn. emergency, but they must also be able to educate and hold their ground against other, sometimes older ob.gyns., family physicians, and midwives who may not be practicing the most up-to-date, evidence-based medicine. This is not a job for a beginner. Physicians with expert clinical skills are essential for a program’s success, as they are the first responders and must be able to deal with or assist in every situation that presents itself.

• A physician who is a team player. The team needs to be flexible and responsible. Smooth handoff rounds, conveying all necessary information, are essential. An outgoing physician needs to introduce the incoming physician to any active patients. Scheduling needs to be fair and allow call dates to be traded to fit everyone’s schedule. Obviously, team members won’t know if they will be compatible until they start working together, but hospitalists must be willing to leave their egos at the door to be “team players.”

• A doctor who is willing to serve. The private practitioner obstetrician needs to keep her own patient happy and safe, whereas ob.gyn. hospitalists need to keep all the patients and all the labor and delivery professionals (and sometimes the gynecology emergency department professionals) safe and happy. Ob.gyn. hospitalists need to go out of their way to ask nurses and physicians the question: Is there anything I can do to help?

One of the great things about being a hospitalist is that the work is so varied, but programs need hospitalists who are willing to help anyone who asks and are comfortable doing so – from the private practitioner who needs a quick ultrasound to determine position, to the OR tech who requires help moving a patient. Some physicians may think these tasks are just scut work, but they are essential to developing a safe, efficient high-reliability organization (HRO) that can avoid catastrophe in a real crisis or emergency.

• A physician who inspires trust. Hospitalists are consistently meeting patients for the first time. They won’t have developed a relationship with patients over the previous months of pregnancy, so ob.gyn. hospitalists need to be able to bond with them and their families quickly. For example, one of the tools I find to be effective when I deal with a mom who has experienced a failed home birth by a lay midwife is this simple phrase: “I know this is not what you planned, but I am so glad that you are here with us so we can take care of you.”

• A doctor who is a good communicator. Hospitalists need to be able to solve problems quickly by using tact, diplomacy, and professionalism at all times. Being involved with emergencies and bad outcomes, they need to be comfortable with debriefing the team and communicating sensitively with patients and families. Highly developed communication skills also extend to documenting the chart and liaising with an absent private practitioner, the nursing team, and the hospital’s administration.

I was one of the original ob.gyn. hospitalists at my community hospital in Bellingham, Wash. Having Dr. Chris Swain’s company, the OB Hospitalist Group, consult helped us to quickly establish a successful new program. Our team of four hospitalists is employed by St. Joseph’s Medical Center. It is a successful program that I’m proud to say encompasses these aforementioned ingredients: We smoothly integrate our scheduling and handoffs; the local obstetricians, family practitioners, and midwives trust us and appreciate our work; and we regularly foster open communication by attending the nurses’ handoff meetings as well as huddling with the anesthesiologist and nurse team leader.

Originally published SEPTEMBER 25, 2012 for ehospitalistnews.com