A new hospitalist doctor calls a staffing agency to inquire about locum work. She asks the representative what the typical day looks like for a locum hospitalist. Unable to answer the question adequately, the representative explains to the doctor that she should probably talk to a fellow hospitalist for more information. Why? Because the hospitalist’s day is not typical.
Hospitalist jobs are known for their variety from one day to the next. When you throw the locum component in, trying to describe a typical day is nearly impossible. This is not to say that working as a locum hospitalist is chaotic, but rather to say that what the doctor does on a day-to-day basis is going to vary from facility to facility.
As a general rule, hospitalists are subject to the following in locum assignments:
- Shift Briefing – Every hospitalist doctor participates in a shift briefing at the start of the day. Doctors need to know who their patients are, how they are doing, and anything else that might be pertinent to offering good care. The doctor’s briefing is very similar to what nurses experience.
- Student Introductions – Most of the major hospitals in the U.S. pair hospitalist doctors with students for teaching purposes. The start of a shift often includes student introductions and discussions.
- Daily Rounds – The bulk of the hospitalist’s workload are the daily rounds. The doctor, sometimes with students in tow, will go room-to-room checking on patients, consulting with them and their nurses, and working with other specialists to map out the day’s treatment plan.
- Case Management – Once rounds are complete, hospitalist doctors meet with case managers and other team members in order to affect a high level of care coordination. The idea is to provide optimal care that will lead to good health and eventual discharge as quickly as possible.
- Follow-Up Rounds – Many doctors will complete the day with a series of follow-up rounds, either visiting every patient or focusing on those who need some extra attention.
The biggest challenge for locums is that they do not have the opportunity to become as involved with healthcare teams due to the transitory nature of their work. They are still expected to contribute, but they will not be working with team members they have been with for years on end.
It Is All Part of the Appeal
You might be wondering how hospitalist locums deal with the reality that there is no such thing as a typical day in what they do. Truth be told, however, that this is part of the appeal of working as a locum. Doctors passionate about locum work generally appreciate the fact that their days are so different. They appreciate being able to do things differently every time they move to a new facility. They are challenged by new team members, different methodologies, and so on.
Is there a typical day in hospitalist medicine? No, not really. Hospitalist doctors follow a general schedule from day to day, but that schedule is always subject to change at a moment’s notice. It is the nature of hospitalist medicine. Patients come and go, departmental needs change, and unforeseen emergencies are always just over the horizon.
As for that new hospitalist talking with the representative at the staffing agency, nothing but experience can truly prepare her for what awaits. Hospitalist jobs in a locum setting are unique in so many ways. She will have to get in, get her feet wet, and learn to rise to the challenges that locum work presents. And she will be better for it.