The hospitalist as intensivist


Clinical question: What roles, training, and support do hospitalists have and perceive in the intensive care unit?

Background: There is a well-documented shortage of intensivists in the United States, which has left hospitalists to help fill the gap of care. Hospitalists, however, have varied levels of critical care knowledge and skills. In some regions, more than 80% of hospitalists deliver care in the ICU. It is unknown how much support hospitalized patients receive from board-certified critical care physicians.

Study design: Multistage cross-section survey.

Setting: Web-based survey initially sent through the Critical Care Task Force professional networks and later sent to 4,000 hospitalists randomly selected from Society of Hospital Medicine’s national electronic mailing list of 12,000 hospitalists.

Synopsis: This study includes 425 responses, approximately 10% of those solicited. Compared with the annual SHM survey, this included more hospitalists from academic hospitals (24% vs. 14.8%) and fewer from nonteaching hospitals (41% vs. 58.7%). A total of 77% of responders provide care in the ICU, with 66% serving as the attending physician.

Rural and nonacademic hospitalists are more prevalent in the ICU (96% rural vs. 73% nonrural; 90% nonacademic vs. 67% academic), are more likely to serve as the primary physician for all or most ICU patients (85% rural vs. 62% nonrural; 81% nonacademic vs. 44% academic), and provide all critical care services (55% rural vs. 10% nonrural; 64% nonacademic vs. 25% academic).

Many rural (43%) and nonacademic (42%) hospitalists feel that they are expected to practice beyond their perceived scope of expertise at least some of the time, which was correlated with perceived difficulty in transferring patients to higher levels of care. About 90% of rural hospitalists report at least insufficient support from board-certified intensivists. Of all responders in the study, 85% indicated interest in additional critical care training in some form, short of fellowship training.

Bottom line: Most hospitalists provide care in the ICU, however hospitalists provide critical care at significantly higher rates in rural and nonacademic hospital settings. This care is being provided with a perceived lack of intensivist support and training.

Citation: Sweigart JR et al. Characterizing hospitalist practice and perceptions of critical care delivery. J Hosp Med. 2018 Jan 1;13(1):6-12.

Dr. Muñoa is a hospitalist at Denver Health Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora.

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