There have been recent discussions in the lay media about a growing trend of litigation cases focused not on the “right to live,” but rather on the “right to die.” These cases have involved patients who received aggressive treatment, despite having documentation of their wishes not to receive such aggressive treatment. Although unsettling, it is not surprising that this issue has arisen, given the national conversations about the exorbitant cost ...

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I sometimes joke that hospitalists are the medicine version of the mullet haircut; you know, all business in “the front” (i.e., the patient care area) and all party in “the back” (i.e., the work room). In “the back,” the usual scenario is to complain and moan about our frequent flyers, our drug seekers, our many unsaveable patients, the incredible situations (“He put a nail where?"), with good-natured but somewhat bitter ...

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STAT_LogoA good relationship between a patient and his or her physician is the cornerstone of superb medical care. That relationship is important when you know the doctor well. It may be even more important when you don’t, say when you are in the hospital.

Growing competition for new customers is inspiring American hospitals to focus on providing ...

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Recently, the online version of JAMA published an original investigation entitled "Patient Mortality During Unannounced Accreditation Surveys at US Hospitals." The purpose of this investigation was to determine the effect of heightened vigilance during unannounced accreditation surveys on safety and quality of inpatient care. The authors found that there was a significant reduction in mortality in patients admitted during the week of surveys by The Joint Commission. The change was ...

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I am working hospitalist right now. On Friday, a man in his 80s was admitted with difficulty breathing. He had a complicated history, including a heart attack at age 35 with all the subsequent sequela of heart disease. He had an abnormal heart rhythm and was taking a blood thinner for stroke prevention. In addition, he had scarring of his lungs (cause unknown). He was transferred to us from another hospital. ...

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Recently, I wrote a letter to hospital executives, urging them to deliberately invest their own personal time and effort in fostering hospitalist well-being. I suggested several actions that leaders can take to enhance hospitalist job satisfaction and reduce the risk of burnout and turnover. Following the publication of that post, I heard from several hospital executives and was pleasantly surprised that they all responded positively to ...

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Sometimes it feels like the great unspoken secret between doctors and nurses. The words that we dare not utter to patients and families. Perhaps it is our hope that we're wrong. Perhaps, we dread providing unwanted news. Perhaps, we don't want to face reality or extinguish our patients' hope. As a daughter, I felt that sense of sadness and dread, waiting to hear the news that would not be told. It was September ...

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Startled out of sleep, I reflexively reach for my beeping pager. For a split second, I lie poised between wakefulness and terror in the pitch-dark resident call room, not sure where I am or what happened. I resolve to sleep with the lights on from now on. I dial the call-back number. "Pod A," a caffeinated voice chirps. It's Candice, one of the nurses. "Hi. Amy here, returning a page," I murmur. "Oh hi, ...

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Dear hospital executive, If you are like many of the hospital leaders with whom I regularly talk, you’re probably concerned that your hospitalist program isn’t delivering the value you need in this metrics-driven and cost-constrained environment. You may see your hospitalists as disengaged free agents who either don’t know or care too little about contributing to the success of your organization beyond seeing the patients on their list. They may repeatedly ...

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About three years ago, our hospital was abuzz about patient satisfaction. Our HCAHPS scores were lower than expected, and there was a push by the administration to improve them. As a hospitalist, I wondered to myself, what could I possibly do to improve them?  I already believed I was doing a very good job communicating effectively with patients. Many years ago, I developed the habit at the end of each encounter ...

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How can a doctor resist an essay entitled, "The Sickness Unto Death?" Kierkegaard, the darkest of the bleak existentialists, begins by asking, “Is despair an excellence or a defect?” Can despair be an excellence? It is December in Oregon, the rain comes down in sheets, with only a few hours daily of half-light. Kierkegaard’s winters in 1840 Denmark must have felt a lot like this, so I press on. “In despairing over ...

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Why am I here? It’s already a half hour past the end of my 12-hour hospitalist shift, and I’m hustling to finish admitting a new patient from the ER. Once I finish, I still need to see patients at another facility before I finally wrap-up for the night and head home. Staying late is a professional courtesy for tonight’s nocturnist nurse practitioner. Nocturnist mid-level practitioners are a unique breed of ...

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It turns out that South Carolina is having a busy hurricane season. Recently, Charleston County was under a mandatory evacuation in anticipation of Hurricane Matthew. All I-26 lanes were converted into westbound traffic, gas stations were running low on fuel, and the local Wal-Mart was out of bottled water. It was T-minus 3 days to the landfall of Hurricane Matthew, with very variable predictions on the trajectory, speed, and strength. ...

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My mother-in-law died last week. She’d single-handedly raised two sons on a social worker’s salary after the love of her life, her husband, died with metastatic melanoma. After her sons left home, she stayed alone on the farm in the middle of nowhere. When she turned 73 and felt the swell of grandmotherly love in her chest, she moved to the city to help raise her first set of grandkids, now ...

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The first time I cried as a doctor was in residency. I was taking care of a patient who had terminal lung cancer. The first time I met him, his wife was at his bedside. The couple displayed such a positive outlook on life and seemed to have accepted the poor prognosis. He was one of the first cancer patients I took care of. Being a cancer survivor myself, I felt a ...

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My name is Dr. Neha Sharma, and I have a confession. Recently, a patient was transferred to me from New Mexico. He was found in his house, unresponsive. By the time I admitted him, he was connected to a breathing machine, and had a serious lung infection. Over a course of a few days, his condition improved. We were able to remove his breathing tube and successfully treat his infection. However, ...

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A road trip from Georgia to New York was going splendid, dare I say, wonderful -- catching up with old friends and family -- when it took an unforeseen and slightly less desirable turn: I got admitted with a small bowel obstruction.  Thanks to truly excellent care from a community hospital, I am home and now subjected to endless computer questions from my father that has me briefly contemplating readmission ...

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Part of a series. Among Medicare recipients, those discharged from the hospital incur about a 20 percent risk of an unplanned readmission within 30 days. The number is higher for some conditions such as heart failure. This is the result of a terribly dysfunctional health care delivery system. Of course some patients will need readmission; the number can never be pushed down to zero, but 20 percent is appalling. Why ...

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San Diego, Tucson, Orlando, and Dallas. Those are a few of the modest destinations to which I have traveled, as a hospitalist, to attend CME conferences, using the pre-tax CME benefit from my employer, including paid days off. As a young professional, my yearly CME trips gave me a mildly magical sense of privilege: “Really? They’re going to pay for all of this?” Browsing through various CME conference options and dreaming ...

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I was talking with a colleague in another section today, and she was noting the difference between our hospitalist group and her section.  She has somewhat intimate knowledge of our section because she did a year with us before moving on to her specialty fellowship.  She is a bit frustrated with her new home and its team members because she feels like there are a lot of “B's.”  You know ...

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