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How the past three years revealed Hospitalists’ capacity for leadership in healthcare

Dr Rachel Thompson

The American healthcare system has faced immense challenges in recent years, from rising costs and decreasing resources to systemic biases and increasing mental health needs. But as Core’s President of Clinical Services Dr. Rachel Thompson noted at the recent annual gathering of the Society of Hospital Medicine, hospitalists have repeatedly demonstrated their leadership capabilities in the face of these challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dr. Thompson, who is the immediate past SHM president, recently shared her insights on the leadership qualities of hospitalists in her remarks at the SHM annual conference. She emphasized their boldness, capacity for innovation, compassion, and connectedness.

And in a recent post for The Hospitalist, Thompson invoked Albert Einstein: “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” She pointed to the power of hospitalists when they are motivated, recalling how they came together during the pandemic to develop new knowledge rapidly, expand networks, and improve care. Hospitalists played multiple vital roles in the pandemic response, caring for over 75% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and leading infrastructure and innovation efforts.

Thompson highlighted four key leadership qualities demonstrated by hospitalists during the pandemic and throughout the past few years:

  • Boldness: Hospitalists developed new efficiencies of care and implemented solutions such as geo-rounding, challenging outdated bylaws, and allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to practice at the top of their licenses. As Thompson wrote, “We are agile and flexible. We are not afraid to fail forward.”
  • Innovation: Hospitalist physicians quickly adopted remote monitoring and tele-rounding, and experimented with hospital-at-home programs. Thompson describes them as thinking “outside the box, designing new ways to provide care.”
  • Compassion: This quality has been at the forefront during these difficult times. Hospitalists not only cared for patients’ medical needs but also considered the whole person, addressing inequities in care and outcomes, and supporting colleagues. “We care for our patients, and our communities; and we care for each other,” Thompson wrote.
  • Connectedness: Finally, hospitalists participated in unprecedented inter-system communication and collaboration during the pandemic, leveraging networks across historically rival health systems and specialties to provide coordinated care.

Thompson also emphasized the policy accomplishments of the hospitalist community in 2022, such as advocating to eliminate the X-waiver, supporting mental health for clinicians, and extending telehealth flexibilities. She also highlighted the growing strength of SHM chapters, special interest groups, and publications, as well as initiatives like “The Prez Room” that foster direct communication between members and the SHM Board.

“With SHM at our backs, let’s all dig down and not just find, but resurface that bright piece inside each of us,” Thompson concluded. “Because WE are so much more than any one of us. Remember why you are here; why we are here; what we are capable of; and reflect this collective power forward for a better tomorrow.”