What is a Hospitalist?

Princeton Health Princeton Health

In the past, when patients were admitted to the hospital, their primary care physician would come to the hospital to check on them and coordinate their care if they were treated by specialists or other healthcare professionals.

Today, however, many primary care doctors spend their time only seeing patients in their office and entrust hospitalists to care for their patients during a hospital stay. A hospitalist is a doctor who provides care exclusively for patients in the hospital. Hospitalists do not have outpatient practices, which means they can devote 100 percent of their time to caring for hospitalized patients.

If you or someone you know is hospitalized, it is important to understand what a hospitalist does and what you can expect from their care.


Q. What is the role of a hospitalist?

A. The role of a hospitalist is to provide direct care to patients and to coordinate and manage a patient's care from admission to discharge. A hospitalist looks at all aspects of a patient's care and is the leader of the care team, which typically includes specialists, nurses, social workers, case managers, and primary care physicians. At PMC, the team may also include medical residents and students from Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, as well as physician's assistants and nurse practitioners who specialize in hospital care.


Q. What type of training do hospitalists have?

A. All hospitalists at PMC are board certified internal medicine doctors who have undergone the same training as other internists, including medical school, residency training and board certification examination. Board certification is a voluntary process over and above medical licensure that demonstrates a physician's exceptional expertise in a particular specialty - in this case, internal medicine.


Q. What are the benefits of having a hospitalist?

A. There are many benefits to having a hospitalist. With on-site availability and lack of typical office time constraints, a hospitalist is available to provide focused, face-to-face care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In other words, they are there when you need them. Given that hospitalists work in the hospital every day, they are familiar with PMC's protocols and processes, and have close working relationships with the nurses and other staff, enabling them to provide high-quality care, effectively and efficiently.Further, hospitalists look at the big picture. While you may see multiple specialists during your stay, it is the job of the hospitalist to evaluate various treatment recommendations, coordinate testing and develop a plan of care that is right for you. Hospitalists are available to answer questions, discuss test results and engage in family discussions as needed. They also keep current on the latest advances in hospital medicine.


Q. Will the hospitalist communicate with my primary care physician?

A. Yes. If you are admitted through the Emergency Department, the hospitalist will inform your primary care physician when you are admitted to the hospital. If it is a planned admission, your physician will request that a hospitalist care for you during your stay. The hospitalist will let your physician know when you are discharged. When you are admitted, the hospitalist will request your medical history and a list of your current medications. Should any problems arise during your stay, your primary care physician will be notified. Upon your discharge, the hospitalist will provide your primary care physician a record of your hospital care and your discharge plan so your primary care physician is ready to resume care.


Q. Can my primary care physician attend to me when I am in the hospital?

A. If your primary care physician is on staff at PMC, he or she can attend to you. However, as an increasing number of hospitals have moved toward using the services of hospitalist, many primary care physicians entrust the care of their patients to the hospitalist.


Q. How does the hospitalist work with any specialists I am currently seeing?

A. Often patients in the hospital have more than one health problem, referred to as comorbidities in medical terms. In these instances, the goal of care is to treat the primary diagnosis that led to the hospitalization, while ensuring the other conditions are stable. It is the role of the hospitalist to communicate with the specialists and coordinate the care.


Q. How do I know who my hospitalist is?

A. Most patient rooms at PMC have a white board facing the bed. After introducing themself, your hospitalist will write their name on the board so you and your family members can see it at all times.


Q. Will my hospitalist change during my stay?

A. Depending on the length of your stay, you could see more than one hospitalist. Hospitalists work in teams so when your main hospitalist is off duty, another hospitalist who is familiar with your case will provide care. At PMC, there is a hospitalist available to treat patients at all times of the day and night.


Q. Will my hospitalist communicate with my family if I want them to?

A. Yes. If you want to give your family member access to your health and treatment information, you must first give your hospitalist written permission. Your hospitalist will likely request one point-of-contact - a spouse, child, sibling - who can disseminate information to other family and loved ones. If you are unable to provide written permission at the time of your hospitalization, your hospitalist will refer to any advance directives you may have.


Q. When do hospitalists typically make rounds?

A. While there is a hospitalist on duty at PMC 24/7, your main hospitalist may see you between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., though they typically make rounds in the morning and see most patients before noon. Hospitalists are available as needed day or night to answer questions, discuss test results and engage in family discussions.


Q. Who should I contact if I have other questions?

A. If you have any other questions about hospitalists, please contact Patient Relations at 609.853.7490.