A hospitalist is a physician who works full time in a hospital and specializes in providing care and treatment for hospitalized patients. During your inpatient stay, a hospitalist will function as your temporary PCP to oversee and manage your comprehensive care plan. Hospitalists perform around-the-clock examinations, monitoring and treatment management services for patients from the time of admission to the time of discharge. Unlike PCPs, hospitalists don’t normally have outside medical practices, which means their only responsibility is caring for you while you’re in the hospital.
A nocturnist is a hospitalist that works late and overnight shifts. For various reasons, a hospitalist may choose this route. Many challenges and rewards come from working as a nocturnist, including juggling patient exams, and making medical decisions without the resources usually afforded to daytime hospitalists and their surrounding staff. A typical schedule for a nocturnist may include beginning their shift at 8 p.m. and working for eight to 12 hours until they are relieved by their daytime hospitalist counterpart.
- Some physicians prefer working at night due to the way their circadian rhythm, or internal body clock works.
- Working overnight allows more flexibility for competing priorities during the day, like raising a family, or running important errands.
- During nighttime hours, hospitals tend to feel quieter. There are usually just as many inpatients at night as during the day, but there are usually fewer people to manage and a smaller core group of practitioners during overnight care.
- Nocturnists typically have more time with patients, allowing for more quality interaction and relationship building. This is partly because there are far less administrative duties and meetings to be a part of.
- Demand for nocturnist positions tend to be higher than daytime hospitalists. Pay tends to be higher on average, too.
- Nocturnists typically have more independence in making clinical decisions. However, if needed, specialists are generally available to assist in situations when needed.
- Since most administrative meetings are held during the day, nocturnists still may be required to come in during their “off-time” to attend these meetings.
- Nocturnists usually have unusual schedules that can affect their families’ and friends’ schedules.
- Working overnight can sometimes interfere with developing healthy sleep patterns. Some nocturnists can adjust easier than others, but it can be a difficult modification at first. It’s important to try to stick to a similar routine even on off days to keep a healthy natural circadian rhythm.
- Because it’s generally quieter at night in the hospital, nocturnists often work alone. Due to this fact, nocturnists need to be comfortable working independently.
- Generally, more patients are transferred into ICU during nighttime hours. Because of this, an extremely ill patient may need the full attention of a nocturnist, making it hard for them to tend to their other patients and duties. This may cause a delay in properly preparing additional patients for a daytime hospitalist following the nocturnist’s shift.
- Nocturnists must be proficient in communicating effectively, as well as handling multiple tasks at once while staying cool under pressure.
If you do choose the career path of a nocturnist, here are a few tips to make the job a little easier and more rewarding:
- Don’t overdo it. Working more than three to five nighttime shifts in a row can lead to quick burnout and over exhaustion.
- If possible, keep shifts to under 12 hours. This will keep performance and job satisfaction at a higher rate.
- Avoid caffeine while on a shift.
- Stick to a routine and go to sleep upon arriving home. Ideally it will still be dark outside after an overnight shift. Using blackout shades and sleeping in a cold environment can help with getting to bed and staying asleep.
Whichever path is chosen, whether a daytime hospitalist or a nocturnist, working in a hospital setting can be remarkably satisfying, helping those who need it most while making a positive impact on a person’s quality of life. Which will you choose?
Contact Advanced Care Hospitalists to Learn More
ACH is a Lakeland-based hospitalist group providing comprehensive patient care in community hospitals across Central Florida. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, services, providers or becoming a partner facility, please call us at 863-816-5884 or fill out a contact form online.