Business is about to pick up America’s 30,000 hospitals in the coming year thanks to millions of new patients taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act. With newly insured patients seeking treatment at hospitals, patient volume is expected to grow rapidly. The downside is that hospitals will now be penalized for readmissions and medical errors. This reality has created an exploding demand for a relatively new specialist, the hospitalist.
The 30,000 hospitalists in the United States are members of the fastest-growing medical specialty field. In simplest terms, hospitalists manage patient care during hospitalization from entry through treatment, discharge, and follow-up care. This job, typically done by overburdened family doctors, is increasingly being handled by internists who no longer have office-based practices. In 2011, hospitalists were credited with reducing the length of hospital stays by anywhere from 17 to 30 percent, and reducing costs by 13 to 20 percent.
Geriatricians are a subspecialty of internal medicine, and the field is growing to meet demand; by 2050, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. Geriatricians are physicians who are trained to deal with the medical, social, and psychological issues concerning older adults. They are called upon to address issues such as memory loss, arthritis, osteoporosis, mobility, and Alzheimer’s disease. With one geriatrician for every 2,600 people 75 and older nationwide, some of the youngest doctors are now training to treat the oldest people.
The rapid pace of change in U.S. healthcare is also affecting nursing. Nurses with ICU experience—those who work in intensive care, cardiac care, and pediatric intensive care –are in continual need. Nurses are also needed for the growing trend towards telemetry. This relatively new field requires nurses to connect patients to machines which remotely measure blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, blood-oxygen level, and electrocardiogram information. Telemetry nurses interpret this information, assesses a patient’s health problems, and develops a nursing care plan.