Dr. Suzanne Pham Explains Her Role as Hospitalist

The Chicago Tribune’s Career Builder ran a story recently on the role of hospitalists in patient care: “Hospitalist: Improving hospital care, efficiency adds to job appeal.” The story featured Weiss Hospital’s Suzanne Pham, MD.Dr. Pham has served as medical director of the Hospitalist Program at Weiss for the past five years. She treats patients who come in for a variety of health issues, but she tells the Tribune that her most memorable experiences involve those critically ill patients who then recover enough to go home.

A 90-year-old patient in particular stuck with Dr. Pham, she says. He came to Weiss following a heart attack.

“After performing chest compressions and other resuscitative measures, my team and I were able to revive him,” Dr. Pham tells the Tribune.

A week later, the patient walked out the door, only to walk back to the hospital a month later to give Dr. Pham a hug.

“Those are the moments I cherish,” Dr. Pham says in the article.

A New Field of Medicine
The hospitalist specialty came about in recent decades as more people required complex care in the hospital, over long stretches of time.

Hospitalists such as Dr. Pham oversee each patient’s care, like an umbrella covering and connecting the cardiologist with the endocrinologist with the physiatrist—or whatever the patient’s unique mix of doctors happens to be.

Dr. Pham works with those doctors, as well as each patient’s nurses and therapists to make the best decisions for the patient. She also checks in with her patients multiple times a day, and works to make hospital practices more cohesive for the patient. The goal: to get patients home and improve quality of care available at the hospital.

Communication is key. “I also spend a considerable amount of time communicating with the patients, their families and their doctors to ensure they understand their condition and the steps being taken to help improve it,” Dr. Pham tells the Tribune.

A hospitalist also treats patients who come in during nontraditional work hours. The hospitalist will examine, diagnose, and manage the patient, and then coordinate further care with appropriate specialists once their shifts begin.

The Path to Hospitalist
Becoming a hospitalist requires extensive training and education, the Tribune reports. Hospitalists complete residencies of at least three years, and typically have backgrounds in internal medicine, family medicine, or pulmonary critical care.

Dr. Pham’s route took her from the University of Oklahoma to Rush University Medical Center, where she trained in internal medicine and pediatrics.

Because a hospitalist’s role with a patient ends when the patient leaves the hospital, the doctor-patient relationship differs from doctors who see patients regularly for follow-up care and check ups.

“I enjoy being able to see patients all the way through their recovery at the hospital. It is immensely satisfying to see a patient be able to walk out the door after having been significantly ill,” Dr. Pham says in the article.

Other doctors see clear benefits in having a hospitalist on staff, and the specialty is growing rapidly.

Read more about Dr. Pham and the hospitalist specialty in the Chicago Tribune’s Career Builder. To learn more about Dr. Pham.