Behind the scenes – What’s a Hospitalist?

Written by Trina Dorrah, MD

Trina Dorrah, MD
Trina Dorrah, MD

When patients are admitted to the hospital at Baylor Scott & White, there is a good chance their admitting physicians will be hospitalists. What’s a hospitalist? We are a group of doctors and advanced practice professionals who work exclusively in the hospital. When I explain it to patients, I tell them that their primary care doctor only sees patients in the clinic. Thus, depending on why they are admitted to the hospital, a hospitalist may take over their care throughout their hospitalization. Once they are discharged, they will go back to their primary care doctor.

My patients often say, “Oh. I get it. You’re just the hospital doctor.” While it is true that I exclusively work in the hospital, I am not just the hospital doctor. Hospitalists are an incredibly important part of the care team. In my opinion, having a hospitalist take care of you while you are hospitalized positively affects your care. In fact, I believe hospitalists are so vital that if my family or I were ever hospitalized, I would definitely request a hospitalist as part of the team. Simply put, hospitalists enhance the patient experience, and here are three of the biggest reasons why:

  • Availability – At Baylor Scott & White Health, hospitalists are readily accessible to our patients, families, and nurses. By limiting our practice to the hospital setting, we are available to take care of your health care needs, either in person or by phone. Having a hospitalist on the care team is also advantageous because your nurse knows exactly who to speak with regarding your needs. In addition, your hospitalist and nurse work together as a team to provide you with the best possible experience.
  • Big picture – One great thing about having a hospitalist take care of you is that the hospitalist focuses on the big picture. Throughout your hospitalization, you may see several specialists. Each specialist focuses on his or her area of expertise, while the hospitalist ensures everyone is on the same page. I often tell my patients that the hospitalist is like the quarterback of the team. All members of the team are essential to your care, but the hospitalist provides the foundation and keeps everything moving throughout your hospitalization. In addition, hospitalists know a great deal about a variety of medical illnesses. This benefits our patients because hospitalists are excellent diagnosticians, and we are experts at taking care of patients with complex medical conditions.
  • Communication – We all know being hospitalized can be an anxiety-provoking experience. However, it is during our patients’ times of greatest vulnerability that hospitalists excel. One of our primary responsibilities is to explain and communicate with our patients. Our hospitalist team rounds daily, and we spend a great deal of time teaching, explaining, and communicating so our patients understand the care plan. Fear of the unknown is one of our patients’ greatest concerns. Hospitalists do whatever we can to help our patients through this experience. Not only do we do this for our patients, but our hospitalist team is also available to speak with our patients’ families and update them on their loved ones’ progress.

When patients come to Baylor Scott & White Health, they should be overjoyed if their care requires the assistance of a hospitalist. If so, you can rest assured that they will have a physician who is available, focused on the big picture, and willing to communicate throughout the hospitalization. Being hospitalized is frightening. Hospitalists understand this fact, so we are here to make your hospitalization that much easier.

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Behind the scenes – What’s a Hospitalist?