Postfellowship Pathways

Tales from a GI Hospitalist


What is a GI hospitalist?

A GI hospitalist is a gastroenterologist that primarily provides inpatient care. Their main professional focus is the acute management of gastrointestinal conditions occurring in the hospital setting.

How prevalent are subspecialty hospitalists?

The rise of hospitalists has changed the landscape of medicine. The hospitalist is now the central inpatient provider responsible for patient care and day-to-day housestaff education. From 1995 to 2016, the number of hospitalists increased from 500 to over 50,000.1 While the majority of hospitalists are generalists from the fields of internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics/gynecology, some come in the form of specialists. In a recent survey, up to 10% of internal medicine subspecialists already consider themselves “hospitalists.”2 However, most of these self-described hospitalists only do so part of the time. For example, many group practices have one of their members manage all the hospitalized patients for the group for certain periods of time. It is rare to find full-time subspecialist hospitalists, but there has been an emergence in this new model of GI practice. Many people are unaware of this system of care nor understand how it may influence hospital-based care.

What is the role of a GI hospitalist?

Dr. David W. Wan

As for every physician, an individual’s responsibilities vary widely. It depends on a host of factors. Your role depends on the size of the team and hospital that you are responsible for. You may be part of a large group multispecialty practice or a GI physician group or work for a tertiary academic center as I do. As such, your team may consist of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, GI fellows, or your partners. Some GI practices alternate different members to cover the group’s hospitalized patients for fixed periods of time. On the other hand, some GI practices or divisions hire dedicated full-time GI hospitalists.

While my primary responsibility is to care for inpatients whom require GI consults, I have outpatient and administrative responsibilities. Generally speaking, I am the de facto consult attending for the year.

How did you decide to become a GI hospitalist?

Upon graduation from my GI fellowship, I wanted an academic job where I could work closely with fellows and manage a wide breadth of complex, high-acuity patients. During fellowship, I enjoyed all areas of gastroenterology and hepatology and did not “sub-subspecialize.” As such, I wanted a job where I would see the full spectrum of GI and liver disease. Additionally, I enjoyed seeing the sickest patients, because I felt I could make the most dramatic differences with my care.

When I was searching for jobs, I spoke with the chief of GI at the hospital where I completed my residency about how I could fill a niche. We conceived of a model that would merge my personal interests and help the division provide consistent teaching for fellows and increase inpatient billing. Prior to my arrival, attendings that staffed the consult service were expected to continue their research and outpatient clinical workload while finding time to come to the hospital. Not surprisingly, attending rounds was erratic. The fellows were left to manage patients independently, scrambled to run cases by whomever happened to be around, or waited until they could reach the attending the next day. Unsurprisingly, billing by attendings was sparse.

What is a typical day like in your life as a GI hospitalist?

My day starts at 7:30 a.m. either with my outpatient office hours, endoscopy session, or GI Grand Rounds. Each week, I have two morning outpatient office sessions, one morning endoscopy session, and one morning session supervising fellows’ endoscopy.

At noon, I round with a team of GI fellows, medical students, and housestaff rotators for 2 hours. After we see the new consults, the remainder of my afternoon is spent seeing the follow-up patients. For two afternoons throughout the week, I have outpatient endoscopy sessions. I typically conclude my day at 5 p.m.

For night coverage, I take emergency calls for my own patients, and share general call duties with the other members of my division. On average, I take calls for one weekday a month and five weekends per year.

Typically, GI hospitalists only cover inpatients during the daytime. All nights and weekends are covered by partners and nonemergent overnight consults are saved until the next day. They have no office work.

What is the most challenging part of being a GI hospitalist?

As the perpetual “GI Consult Attending,” there is the threat of burnout when confronted with a high volume of sick, complex patients. Many of the patients have multiple comorbidities and require a multidisciplinary approach. On average, we have five new consults a day and the number of active follow-up patients is 10. Nonetheless, the nature of the inpatient service makes the volume of work unpredictable. When the service is busy and the census swells, the numbers of patients requiring staffing and notes can become overwhelming.


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