Up until 10 years ago, it was common for pediatricians or family doctors to manage the care of patients admitted to the hospital. While it may sound pretty nice to someone with a strong relationship with their primary care provider, for a physician to be on-call all day, every day while managing inpatient and outpatient loads just wasn’t very efficient, convenient or practical.
Hospitalists specialize in providing quality care for hospitalized patients, and serve as that vital bridge between primary care providers, hospital staff and patients. While there can be any number of hospitalist subspecialties, as you can probably guess, pediatric hospitalists, such as myself, focus on hospital inpatients from birth to 18 years old. If a child is experiencing complications in the emergency department, a pediatric hospitalist is there. If there’s a high-risk birth that may require resuscitation, a pediatric hospitalist is there. Basically, if a baby, growing child or young adult is admitted into Washington Hospital, I or one of my pediatric hospitalist colleagues, are there to ensure safe, high-quality, developmentally-appropriate care.
In terms of being a community asset, the pediatric hospitalist program at Washington Hospital is kind of a hidden gem. It allows for immediate care in emergency situations, broadens the types of patients other specialists can care for (like high-risk pregnancies) and provides a thorough way to better care – all while keeping children and families in the community, close to home and their support networks.
An example of how the pediatric hospitalist program translates to improved care in the community is in our asthma protocol. My colleague, pediatrician Katherine Caldwell, MD, has really been the driving force behind implementing this new pathway for caring for children with asthma within the Washington Hospital Healthcare System. But as a pediatric hospitalist, this is especially relevant because asthma is one of the most common admitting diagnosis we see in the pediatric population.
We can adhere to standards in terms of medications we’re using, when we start it, how we use it. More importantly, we coordinate with the patient’s pediatrician to get the child home and recovering as quickly as possible. It’s this communication and continuity that leads to better outcomes.
Another thing that makes the hospitalist program unique is Washington Hospital’s close relationship with UCSF Health. All of the pediatric hospitalists on staff – myself included – are part of the UCSF Department of Pediatrics. We participate in a network of UCSF-affiliated academic and community-based hospitalist programs to create standards of practice for common neonatal and pediatric illnesses. This partnership means that best practices developed within academic medical institutes are put into practice in our community hospital setting faster and more efficiently.
Additionally, while, ideally, every patient in the community would be able to stay in the community when in the hospital, sometimes they need to go outside the community to receive more specialized care. In these cases, we’re able to refer pediatric patients to one of the local Children’s Hospitals for treatment.
At the end of the day, the real benefit of the pediatric hospitalist program at Washington Hospital is in reducing as much stress as possible in the stressful situation of child hospitalization. By providing this service, parents can ensure their child is getting the best possible care while in the hospital as well as continued care after discharge. And they can do it without straying too far from home, support networks and other children they may be responsible for.