The branching tree of hospital medicine

Diversity of training backgrounds


You’ve probably heard of a “nocturnist,” but have you ever heard of a “weekendist?”

Dr. Alan Hall, a med-peds hospitalist and assistant professor at UK Healthcare in Lexington, Ky.

Dr. Alan Hall

The field of hospital medicine (HM) has evolved dramatically since the term “hospitalist” was introduced in the literature in 1996.1 There is a saying in HM that “if you know one HM program, you know one HM program,” alluding to the fact that every HM program is unique. The diversity of individual HM programs combined with the overall evolution of the field has expanded the range of jobs available in HM.

The nomenclature of adding an -ist to the end of the specific roles (e.g., nocturnist, weekendist) has become commonplace. These roles have developed with the increasing need for day and night staffing at many hospitals secondary to increased and more complex patients, less availability of residents because of work hour restrictions, and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) rules that require overnight supervision of residents

Additionally, the field of HM increasingly includes physicians trained in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, and medicine-pediatrics (med-peds). In this article, we describe the variety of roles available to trainees joining HM and the multitude of different training backgrounds hospitalists come from.


The 2018 State of Hospital Medicine Report notes that 76.1% of adult-only HM groups have nocturnists, hospitalists who work primarily at night to admit and to provide coverage for admitted patients.2 Nocturnists often provide benefit to the rest of their hospitalist group by allowing fewer required night shifts for those that prefer to work during the day.

Dr. Pallabi Sanyal-Dey academic hospitalist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center/UCSF, where she is director of clinical operations, and director of the faculty inpatient service.

Dr. Pallabi Sanyal-Dey

Nocturnists may choose a nighttime schedule for several reasons, including the ability to be home more during the day. They also have the potential to work fewer total hours or shifts while still earning a similar or increased income, compared with predominantly daytime hospitalists, increasing their flexibility to pursue other interests. These nocturnists become experts in navigating the admission process and responding to inpatient emergencies often with less support when compared with daytime hospitalists.

In addition to career nocturnist work, nocturnist jobs can be a great fit for those residency graduates who are undecided about fellowship and enjoy the acuity of inpatient medicine. It provides an opportunity to hone their clinical skill set prior to specialized training while earning an attending salary, and offers flexible hours which may allow for research or other endeavors. In academic centers, nocturnist educational roles take on a different character as well and may involve more 1:1 educational experiences. The role of nocturnists as educators is expanding as ACGME rules call for more oversight and educational opportunities for residents who are working at night.

Dr. Dennis Chang, associate professor and interprofessional education thread director (MD curriculum) at Washington University in St. Louis

Dr. Dennis Chang

However, challenges exist for nocturnists, including keeping abreast of new changes in their HM groups and hospital systems and engaging in quality initiatives, given that most meetings occur during the day. Additionally, nocturnists must adapt to sleeping during the day, potentially getting less sleep then they would otherwise and being “off cycle” with family and friends. For nocturnists raising children, being off cycle may be advantageous as it can allow them to be home with their children after school.


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