Over the past decade, organizations such as SHM, MGMA and Today’s Hospitalist Magazine have conducted surveys that give both prospective employers and hospitalists a glimpse of the national hospitalist marketplace. These reports indicate national and regional data including hospitalist activity, work type, workload and productivity. The data is very important for establishing general trends and ranges, but the question remains: What can an employer do to attract and retain qualified hospitalists?
One very important and impactful element is the compensation package, but the decision-makers in hospitalist programs should do their due diligence in seeking out comparables. Each program has so many unique aspects that even after a careful review of the local market and regional data, programs must exercise caution when interpreting those figures.
How to compare? First, what is the key clinical and non-clinical hospitalist duties required in a new (or reorganized) service? What will each hospitalist’s job look like in year 1, 2, 5 and beyond? Next, review the available surveys that give details of hospitalist activities, and try to pinpoint the most pertinent categories and survey results that apply to your institution. Then, make every attempt to investigate the local market. This is easier said than done because most local competitors can be very tight-lipped about their program details. At the very least, try to find out: What services are other regional, similar sized hospitalists programs providing? How many patient encounters do they have and how long are their shifts? Are hospitalists in-house 24/7? Do they participate in pre-code or code blue situations? Do they perform procedures and, if they do, what procedures?
The goal is to make certain that you can legitimately compare the programs. During most investigations, administrators will likely discover that the hospital next door is quite different than their own. From one region to the next, employers can gain a general idea of what packages are being offered. However, if you are comparing a critical access hospital to a 100-bed facility just a few blocks apart, you might as well be comparing apples and oranges.
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– O’Neil J. Pyke, MD, SFHM