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  Saturday, November 1, 2014  
   
 

 
  

 


What is a Hospitalist?

A trusted local physician shares his experience.

By Angela Healy

More than a decade ago, it was the norm for patients in the hospital to expect a morning visit from their primary care physician. But these days, when someone is admitted to the hospital, someone else—a hospitalist—is likely to take charge.

Dr. Gregg Shivers is one of six Hospitalists at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital, a 67-bed community hospital in Gloucester, Virginia, specially trained in internal medicine and has broad knowledge of the medical conditions he’s apt to see during a typical day. Hospitalist programs are made up of physicians that work only in the hospital and are available on site 24 hours a day.

As a hospitalist, Dr. Shivers will coordinate all aspects of a patient’s treatment during their entire hospital stay. Typical activities include making diagnoses, ordering tests and medications, consulting with specialists, visiting the patient and keeping family members informed. He shares many of these duties with other members of the hospitalist team, including nurse practitioners, all of whom work closely together with the entire clinical team during the patient’s hospital stay.

Dr. Shivers’ day is dominated by taking care of acutely ill patients with multiple complex problems that require admission to the hospital. Because he sees only inpatients, Dr. Shivers can respond quickly to his patient’s needs and make timely decisions regarding diagnostic tests and treatments.

Dr. Shivers says, “While on duty, I never leave the hospital, and can respond to our patient’s needs quickly and efficiently. When I order a test, results come back very quickly, allowing me to start additional testing or therapy if necessary.”

He communicates closely by phone or through the electronic medical record with each patient’s primary care physician. Communicating directly with the patient’s primary care physician and specialists is essential to better understand the patient’s medical, surgical and social history, and provide for a reliable transition back to the patient’s primary care physician upon leaving the hospital.

“When my patients are ready for discharge, a complete summary of what happened while in the hospital and what is needed for follow-up care is communicated in writing and by phone if necessary to their primary care and specialty physicians,” explains Dr. Shivers.

Having dedicated Hospitalists to care for only inpatients promotes better care and it can also lead to early discharges reducing the time a patient has to stay in the hospital. Moreover, Hospitalists take lead roles in managing hospital programs for quality improvement, patient safety and efficiency. Dr. Shivers shares, “the team of Hospitalists at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital work with colleagues to develop best practices for providing optimal patient care in the hospital. Everyday, I work alongside the dedicated hospital staff at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital to continually evaluate how we can provide the safest environment and best outcomes for our patients.”

Over the last ten years, with the changes in how hospitals provide care to those requiring hospitalization, the demand for hospitalists has grown and their ranks have grown from approximately 1,000 nationwide in the mid-1990s to more than 34,000 today, according to the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM). Nearly two-thirds of U.S. hospitals, including some 90% that have at least 200 beds, now use these specialists. Dr. Shivers shares, “it has been reported that within the next 10 years, virtually every hospital will have hospitalists. Riverside Walter Reed Hospital recognized the need for a hospitalist program over 5 years ago. Over this time we have developed a mature and well defined program that provides timely, effective and high quality care to the patients of Gloucester and the surrounding communities.”

For more information about the Hospitalist Program at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital, please contact Administration at 804-693-8810.

Dr. Gregg Shivers, M.D. is Board Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine His office is located on the campus of Riverside Walter Reed Hospital at 7519 Hospital Drive, Gloucester, VA 23061.