Hospitalist Physician Career Profile

Doctor greeting patient in hospital ward
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A hospitalist is a physician who treats patients solely in a hospital. They do not hold clinics or see patients in an office-based setting. Most hospitalists are trained as internal medicine physicians, although some family practice physicians also become hospitalists. Hospitalists are typically employed by a hospital, or by a hospitalist contracting company.

Over the past few years, the hospitalist role has increased exponentially in demand and popularity, because traditional internists, who typically manage a full-time office practice in addition to rounding on patients in the hospital, are seeking a better quality of life. Therefore, the traditional internal medicine physician’s role has gradually become separated into two separate roles—the outpatient internist who sees patients in an office, and the hospitalist who treats patients in the hospital.

Work Environment

Hospitalists, as their title implies, always work in a hospital facility where patients are admitted for overnight stays for any number of reasons. Most hospitalist jobs are in mid- to larger-sized facilities because the smaller hospitals often don’t have the demand or resources to employ hospitalists on staff.

Typical Schedule and Work Week

Hospitalists often work on a shift-based schedule, typically in a block schedule. The average shift is 10 to 12 hours. Block scheduling has become the most common and desired schedule format for hospitalists. For example, a hospitalist may work five or seven days in a row, 10-12 hours each day, and then have five or seven consecutive days off.

Training and Education Required

Like all physicians, hospitalists must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree, plus four years of medical school to obtain their medical degree from an accredited medical school. In addition, a hospitalist also must complete several years of graduate medical education (GME) to include a one-year internship, plus 3 years of residency training. Furthermore, a hospitalist must pass the necessary medical certification and licensing exams including all three steps of the USMLE, and any state licensing exams. Most hospitalists are also required to be board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

What's to Like

Doctors really like the hospitalist schedule because of the block scheduling. It allows the physician to have quite a bit of time off, sometimes half the year! Although they work long hours during an "on" week, the luxury of being totally "off," with no call requirements or patients to worry about, for up to a week at a time, seems to attract many physicians to this type of practice. Also, because most hospitalists are employed as opposed to owning their own practice, hospitalists do not have to deal with many of the business hassles of managing a practice such as staffing, billing, marketing/advertising, etc.

What's Not to Like

Although many physicians enjoy being employed as hospitalists, some physicians need more autonomy in their career. Being employed as a hospitalist requires the ability to work as part of a team. Because the hospital must be adequately covered at all times, the schedule could become an issue if and when a physician leaves the group for any reason, requiring the remaining physicians to pick up the extra shifts until a replacement is found, which could take six months or longer. Furthermore, some physicians feel that hospital work is too stressful, too repetitive, or too impersonal as compared to office-based work.


The average hospitalist makes anywhere from about $175,000 on the lower end to upwards of $250,000 on the higher end of the spectrum.

Career Path

Most hospitalists are happy just to be a hospitalist, as it is a very lucrative career with a rewarding quality of life and practice. However, if you would like to take on additional leadership responsibilities, or earn more money, you could take on a role as a director of a hospitalist group. Directors or group managers help coordinate the schedule of the group to ensure consistent hospital coverage, as well as manage any other professional issues and help address quality issues amongst the group.

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