Jackson — Instead of going into private practice or choosing clinical work, physician George Loukatos wanted a more rewarding career, one that involved working with acutely ill patients on a daily basis.
Joining the inpatient hospitalist program for staff physicians at Central Mississippi Medical Center (CMMC) fit Loukatos’ job criteria. As one of the medical center’s six hospitalists providing round-the-clock medical care to patients during their hospital stay, Loukatos partners with patients’ primary care physicians to coordinate medical services and answer questions for patients and their families.
“Patients who are hospitalized have serious and sometimes life-threatening conditions that require the highest level of medical care,” said Loukatos. “Providing this care on a day-to-day basis, while sometimes stressful, is where the true reward of being a physician lies. Our patients and their families entrust us with everything. I feel privileged to be given this trust and a sense of pride when my patients leave the hospital well and happy again.”
CMMC organized the hospitalist program in 2000 in response to physician requests, said CEO Jay Finnegan.
“At that time, more and more family medicine physicians were wanting to focus their attention on their office practice and were seeking support from the hospital to designate a physician they could reliably contact to hospitalize their patients when they needed inpatient care,” he explained. “This physician, ‘hospitalist,’ would have the single purpose of caring for the hospitalized patient and coordinating the patient’s care with their family physician upon discharge from the hospital. Many community pediatricians saw how well the program worked and asked us to expand it to include pediatric services, too.”
In 2002, CMMC became the first hospital in the state to introduce a pediatric hospitalist program.
“Because we’re right here on campus with no patient appointments to keep, unlike pediatricians with practices, we’re able to devote more time to focusing on the child’s individual care,” said pediatric hospitalist Donna Tafor, M.D. “We work closely with the child’s pediatrician as well as any other specialists that may be called in to help. We are also there for the parents and other family members … to lend our support.”
Sharon Wilt, M.D., the other pediatrician hospitalist at CMMC, called the peace of mind parents experience from having a pediatrician in the hospital when they need one “priceless.”
“Children are a bit more difficult to reassure since they tend to worry about what will happen to them, if it will hurt, and if they will be separated from their parents,” she said. “It takes the parent, pediatrician and our healthcare professionals working together to help explain things and reassure the child.”
Because of their unique position, hospitalists must rate higher than most physicians on “bedside manners.”
“It is very important to identify quickly with a new patient as a hospitalist,” said Greg Oden, M.D., director of the adult hospitalist program at CMMC. “With an acute illness, they are coming from a comfortable environment with a family doctor they may have known for years, to an unknown physician’s care. It is essential to show compassion, honesty and have good communication skills to gain the trust of a new patient.”
Most patients like the concept of having a hospitalist on staff, said Tauqeer Yousef, M.D., adult hospitalist.
“They like the fact that their doctor is in the hospital and they can talk to (him) at almost any time,” he said. “They like being seen by a doctor more than once a day and since we are in the hospital, we can usually accommodate the patient and their family if they have special needs.”
Finnegan said the growing hospitalist program has been a great success.
“The program allows participating physicians, the hospitalist and the office-based family physician the opportunity to focus better on the different aspects of care with the intention of delivering overall high quality patient care,” he said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org.