NAIP to SHM: The importance of a name

Defining the hospitalist ‘brand’


The National Association of Inpatient Physicians (NAIP) “opened its doors” in the spring of 1998, welcoming the first 300 hospitalists. The term “hospitalist” was first coined in Bob Wachter’s 1996 New England Journal of Medicine article,1 although hospitalists were relatively few at that time, and the term not infrequently evoked controversy.

Dr. Jeffrey R. Dichter

Having full-time hospital-based physicians was highly disruptive to the traditional culture of medicine, where hospital rounds were an integral part of a primary care physicians’ practice, professional identity, and referral patterns. Additionally, many hospital-based specialists were beginning to fill the hospitalist role.

The decision to include “inpatient physician” rather than “hospitalist” in the name was carefully considered and was intended to be inclusive, without alienating potential allies. Virtually any doctor working in a hospital could identify themselves as an inpatient physician, and all who wanted to participate were welcomed. It also was evident early on that this young specialty was going to comprise many different disciplines, including internal medicine, family practice, and pediatrics to name a few, and reaching out to all potential stakeholders was an urgent priority.

During its’ first 5 years, the field of hospital medicine grew rapidly, with NAIP membership nearing 2,000 members. The bimonthly newsletter The Hospitalist provided a vehicle to reach out to members and other stakeholders, and the annual meeting gave hospitalists a forum to gather, learn from each other, and enjoy camaraderie. Early research efforts focused on patient safety and, just as importantly, in 2002, the publication of the first Productivity and Compensation Survey (which is now known as SHM’s State of Hospital Medicine Report) and the initial development of The Hospitalist Core Competencies (first published in 2006, and now in its’ 2017 revision) all helped define the young specialty and gain acceptance.2,3

The term hospitalist became mainstream and accepted, and the name of our field, hospital medicine, has now become widely recognized.

Though the term “inpatient physician” had focused on physicians as a primary constituency, the successful growth of hospital medicine now increasingly depended upon other important constituencies and their understanding of the hospital medicine specialty and the role of hospitalists. These stakeholders included virtually all health care professionals and administrators, government officials at the federal, state, and local levels, patients, and the American public.

As NAIP leadership, it was our belief and intent that having a name that accurately portrayed hospitalists and hospital medicine would define our “brand” in an understandable way. This was especially important given the breadth and depth of the responsibilities that NAIP and its’ members were increasingly taking on in a rapidly changing health care system. Additionally, it was a top priority to find a name that would inspire confidence and passion among our members, stir a sense of loyalty and pride, and continue to be inclusive.

With this in mind, the NAIP board undertook a process to search for a new name in the spring of 2002. As NAIP President-Elect, stewarding the name change process was my responsibility.
In approaching this challenge, we initially evaluated the components of other professional organizations’ names, including academy, college, and society among others, and whether the specialist name or professional field was included. We then held focus groups among regional hospitalists, invited feedback from all NAIP members, and solicited leadership feedback from other professional organizations. All of these data were taken into our fall 2002 board meeting in St. Louis.

Prior to the meeting, it was agreed that making a name change would require a supermajority of two-thirds of the 11 voting board members (though only 10 ultimately attended the meeting). Also participating in the discussion were the nonvoting four ex-officio board members and the NAIP CEO. The initial discussion included presentations arguing for Hospital Medicine versus Hospitalist as part of the name. We then discussed and voted on the primary professional component of the name, with “Society” finally being chosen. After further discussion and a series of ballots, we arrived at the name “Society of Hospital Medicine.” In the final ballot, 7 out of 10 cast their votes in favor of this finalist, and our organization became The Society of Hospital Medicine. Our abbreviation SHM was to become our logo, which was developed in advance of our 2003 annual meeting.

In the 15 years since, the Society of Hospital Medicine has become well known to our constituents and stakeholders. SHM is recognized for its staunch advocacy, particularly at the federal level, with recent establishment of a Medicare specialty code designation for hospitalists, and support for endeavors such as Project Boost, which focused on patient transitions from hospital discharge to home.4,5,6 Hospitalists throughout the United States routinely manage hospitalized patients, and now have their specialty expertise recognized via Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine (Internal Medicine and Family Practice), and future specialty training and certification for pediatric hospitalists.7,8,9

The Journal of Hospital Medicine now highlights accomplishments in hospital medicine research and knowledge.10 Hospitalist leaders frequently are developed through the SHM Leadership Academy,11 and hospitalists increasingly fill diverse health care responsibilities in education, research, informatics, palliative care, performance improvement, administration, among many others. Of note, SHM membership currently exceeds 17,000 members, and now offers membership that includes nurse practitioners, physician assistants, fellows, residents, students, and practice administrators, among others.12

These achievements and many more have been driven by the efforts of past and present Society of Hospital Medicine members and staff, and like-minded, invested professionals and organizations. The name Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM) is highly familiar and well regarded by virtually all our stakeholders and is recognized for its proven leadership in continuing to define our brand, hospital medicine.

Dr. Dichter is an intensivist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Minneapolis.


1. Wachter RM et al. The emerging role of “hospitalists” in the American health care system. N Eng J Med. 1996 Aug 15;335(7):514-7.
2. SHM’s State of Hospital Medicine Report 2018. Fall 2018.
3. Satyen N et al. Core competencies in hospital medicine 2017 Revision. J Hosp Med. 2017 Apr;12:S1.
4. Society of Hospital Medicine website, Policy & Advocacy homepage (accessed July 26, 2018).
5. CMS manual system, Oct. 28, 2016 (accessed July 26, 2018).
6. Society of Hospital Medicine website, Clinical Topics: Advancing successful care transitions to improve outcomes (accessed July 26, 2018).
7. American Board of Internal Medicine website, MOC requirements: Focused practice in hospital medicine (accessed July 26, 2018).
8. American Board of Family Medicine website, Designation of practice in hospital medicine (accessed July 26, 2018).
9. The American Board of Pediatrics website, Pediatric hospital medicine certification (accessed July 26, 2018).
10. Journal of Hospital Medicine official website (accessed July 26, 2018).
11. SHM Leadership Academy website (accessed July 26, 2018).
12. Society of Hospital Medicine website, About SHM membership (accessed July 26, 2018).

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