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What Is an Inpatient Physician?

By A. Reed
Updated: May 17, 2024

Also commonly referred to as a hospitalist, an inpatient physician is a medical doctor who has typically been trained in the internal medicine specialty and works only in the hospital with admitted patients who will be there for at least one day. They do not generally work in private practice and tend to devote service entirely to one specific hospital. General duties include case management and consulting with primary care providers. Hospitalists mark a change in the way in which healthcare services are provided to hospitalized patients, as this field is somewhat new in certain regions of the world and is growing in demand.

The duties of an inpatient physician start from the time that a patient is admitted and continues through after-care visits. Acting as the primary case manager for a specific patient, the hospitalist is responsible for coordinating and scheduling important surgeries and diagnostic tests, as well as consulting with assigned specialists regarding their care. These doctors work to ensure that the hospital supplies and resources are obtainable to provide patients with optimal care and service. Certain inpatient physicians can also usually be found working in the capacity of department heads, such as chief of general surgery or internal medicine.

Training and education of an inpatient physician begins with a bachelor's degree in any select major and completion of premedical science courses including organic chemistry and physics. After medical school, which usually lasts several years, hospitalist doctors tend to complete residencies in internal medicine, although other specialties also qualify physicians for hospitalist positions. Other hospitalist specialties include psychiatry, oncology, and general surgery. Fellowship programs in hospital medicine are emerging to train internists in this field.

The general surgeon is sometimes employed as an inpatient physician, as he or she performs a variety of surgical procedures in hospitals on permanent staff. Hospitalist surgeons are required to endure a rigorous course of study, as they must successfully complete approximately 300 surgeries as part of residency training. To become an inpatient physician of this type takes many years of education as the residency is about five years long, after medical school is finished.

Due to a predicted shortage of doctors as of 2011, hospitalist positions can be expected to increase as private practice physicians adjust to healthcare reform. Many of these doctors are turning over care of their hospitalized patients to inpatient physicians in order to free up time for their practices. Incomes for the year 2011 for inpatient physicians are increasing as a result of this.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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