What Is a Hospitalist?

When a patient visits South Shore Hospital, they will most likely be seen by a hospitalist—which is a doctor who only sees patients in a hospital. Prior to the mid-1990s, hospitalized patients were cared for by physicians who split their time between the hospital and outpatient clinics.

There is evidence that hospitalists increase the quality and efficiency of care for hospitalized patients, while driving down costs for hospitals and patients.

Here are some answers to common questions about what a hospitalist does and what you should expect during your hospital visit:

What is a Hospitalist?

Hospitalists are physicians that have completed their medical training in either Internal Medicine or Family Practice, and have dedicated their practice to caring for patients during an acute hospitalization instead of working in a Primary Care setting. Hospitalists can also be Nurse Practitioners (NP) and/or Physician Assistants (PA), who practice under the guidance of a physician. 

Some hospitalists work with a specialized group of patients (i.e.: Neurology, Surgery), supporting specialists in those fields. There are also nocturnists, which are a group of hospitalists who are in the hospital at night, assuring there is always a physician available to care for patient’s needs.

What Role Does a Hospitalist Play at South Shore Health?

Though the hospitalists of South Shore Health are located solely at South Shore Hospital, we help assure that care is integrated across the system. South Shore Health’s hospitalists are involved in the care of greater than 80 percent of the patients that come into the hospital. 

Watch this video, featuring my colleague Deborrah Privert, MD, for a look at a day in the life of a hospitalist:

While a patient is in the hospital, the hospitalist is responsible for his/her daily medical care; working with nursing, consultants, and various therapists to help the patient get better. During a hospitalization, a hospitalist may call the patient’s Primary Care Physician (PCP) to get a more complete picture of their medical history.

When a patient is ready for discharge, hospitalists work with Case Managers to assure a safe discharge plan and appropriate follow-up. During discharge, hospitalists complete all necessary paperwork and documentation to assure that the next providers seeing the patient are aware of the care plan. Hospitalists are also responsible for making sure the services a patient receives in their home are correct. For example, hospitalists will write wound care orders for our colleagues in the South Shore VNA, or medications orders for Hospice of the South Shore.

Why Did You Become a Hospitalist?

During my residency, I found that I was most comfortable in the hospital, caring for the wide breadth of patients and pathologies of my inpatient rotations. I enjoyed interacting with specialists and therapists to learn how to support my patients during their acute hospitalization and a coordinate care them after discharge. Most of all, I enjoyed the faster pace of being in the hospital, which meant that I had to learn how to form relationships with patients quickly.

Want to be a part of our hospitalist team, or see other roles at South Shore Health? Visit our Careers page.