Understanding new roles in healthcare

Most of us know that hospital staffing is made up of doctors and nurses. But if you haven’t visited a hospital lately, you may not know about the evolving set of specialties found in today’s hospitals.

Where is my primary care doctor?

A relatively new trend in the care of hospitalized patients is the “hospitalist,” a doctor who specializes in the care of such patients. In most instances, it will be the hospitalist, not your primary care physician, who will be treating you during your stay.

Hospitalists are most often board-certified internal medicine doctors who have training and experience in caring for the complexities of the hospitalized. Because they do not have a community practice, they’re able to concentrate on patient care, testing and timely communication with everyone from the patient to their families, other physicians and the nursing staff.

A hospitalist’s “home base” is the hospital, so they are experts at navigating the policies and protocols within that setting. This is a great benefit to the patient. The downside is they may not be familiar with a patient’s medical history or their current medications.

Hospitalists should communicate with the primary care physician to get the information they need to treat a patient, and this is an instance where electronic medical records are particularly helpful. Letting your primary care physician know you are being admitted to the hospital can facilitate the forwarding of important information to your hospitalist.

As a hospitalized senior with no family locally, who is watching out for me?

A case manager works closely with senior patients to assess their needs, develop and facilitate a plan of care based on the assessment, and advocate for the patient.

Sometimes a case manager is also referred to as a discharge planner.

Typically, a case manager is a licensed nurse or medical social worker whose job is to develop a plan to transition the patient from one level of care to another. These transitions may be within the hospital setting or outside the hospital—to home care, rehab, a nursing home or an assisted-living facility, for example.

It’s important to communicate openly and honestly with your case manager so that he or she can develop the best possible plan of care for you.

What if I am critically ill and decide I don’t want to move forward with the full treatment that is being recommended to me?

As awareness of the issues surrounding the end of life increases, palliative care nurses and physicians are called to advocate for a terminally ill patient and their family. Most hospitals employ a palliative care physician or nurse.

The goal of palliative care is to help patients at the end of life achieve the best possible quality of life through relief of suffering and control of symptoms while remaining sensitive to personal, cultural and religious values, beliefs and practices.

Palliative care nurses and physicians make patients and families aware of all their options, regarding not only end of life, but also treatment of chronic or debilitating illness.

Why am I being seen by infectious disease(ID) specialist?

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that just 10 different diseases are responsible for 84 percent of all hospital visits and all complications among patients once they’ve been admitted to the hospital.

Among those 10 infectious diseases are norovirus, the flu, staph infections, urinary-tract infections and pneumonia.

An ID specialist has specific training and diagnostic tools to help determine the cause of your infection and the best approach to treatment. He or she will work hand in hand with the hospitalist to attempt to cure your infectious disease.

It takes a team.

As hospitals attempt to provide patient-centered care and prevent readmissions, a team-based approach is at work to ensure patients receive the highest level of care possible.

Understanding how each team member contributes to your care may result in a better hospital outcome for you.

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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