Want Help with Your Job Search?

Jane Jerrard

The Hospitalist. 2007;11(5):11-15. 

In This Article

Questions to Ask

Even if you've got your eye on a specific hospital medicine group, go though the interview process at several institutions so that you can see what the market offers. Important factors to consider include:

Who would I work for? Who owns the hospital medicine practice? "There are differences in who's sponsoring the group," says Dr. Harris. "It may be independent, employed by the hospital, or a national group that contracts with the hospital. The answer will give you insights into the job. You may not get the entire picture, but you'll get a clue." Consider whether the practice can offer opportunities for advancement–possibly even partnership– and the type of clinical or administrative work you prefer.

What type of schedule would I work? How is the schedule arranged? Consider the number of hours you'd spend on call, and the number of nights and weekends you'd be expected to cover.

"Residents don't have a sustainable schedule, so anything that's not ridiculous sounds good," warns Dr. Harris. "But a seven-on, seven-off shift is very tiring and can lead to burnout over time. So consider whether a given schedule is realistic for the long-term." Find out how many vacation days are included–or if there are none.

Questions to ask during the interview.

What is the workload? During the interviewing process, ask about the average number of encounters per day. Definitely ask those "nitty-gritty" questions about patient load, admissions, and so on, advises Dr. Harris.

Pay special attention to the number of encounters. "Seeing 18 to 20 patients a day is a lot; those are the turn-and-burn organizations that aren't necessarily sustainable," says Dr. Panwala. "The money offered for this may be appealing to younger hospitalists. But remember, if you're getting paid more, nothing is free."

Dr. Harris adds, "Ask if that includes admissions and–if there's critical care work–ask how many of those encounters are in critical care, because those patients will take more time."

Michael-Anthony Williams, MD, regional CMO of Sound Inpatient Physicians in Denver, advises job seekers to look at "what they have to do" for the salary offered. "Look at the number of days worked, the length of those days, and the number of encounters per day. You have to ask questions about these things, because the information isn't necessarily going to be laid out in front of you."

What about compensation and benefits? Your first consideration of salary, benefits, and other compensation should be to ensure the figures are in line with what the market offers. You can find general information on what hospitalists make from SHM's "Bi-Annual Survey on the State of the Hospital Medicine Movement," available at http://www.hospitalmedicine.org/. The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) provide salary scales, and salaries for positions at public institutions like university hospitals are public information.

Do your homework, and then simply ask each interviewer what the salary range is for hospitalists. "It doesn't put me off to have these discussions [on compensation and benefits] early on," says Dr. Harris.

You may be tempted to choose a job based on salary–but be careful: "Don't always look at the amount of money as the deciding factor," says Dr. Badlani. "If a job offers $5,000 or $10,000 more, what are they expecting for that extra salary? And consider how much of that additional money will go to taxes." As you gather information on these areas, you'll need to keep it straight. Dr. Harris advises you to create a simple system that allows you to compare hospital medicine practices you're considering. "Come up with a chart and list out everything," she says. "It's going to vary considerably" from practice to practice, and you'll need a method to compare one job possibility with another.

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