My decision to become an OB hospitalist was firmly rooted in knowing from the start that I planned to work as an OB/GYN in an underserved state in the Deep South. I grew up in Mississippi, went to college and medical school there, and when I returned from my residency in New Orleans, I established a private practice in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
The March of Dimes and the Centers for Disease Control data indicate that half of Mississippi’s counties still do not have an OB/GYN or a pediatrician. I was needed, and so I enjoyed my practice for a long time for the very reasons that I chose to become an OB/GYN in the first place: the continuity of care, delivering babies, and taking care of patients as they went through different stages of life, all in a community where I knew my patients as people with whom I regularly interacted outside of my office.
It was deeply rewarding work, but undeniably challenging. Mississippi has fewer than 180 active patient care physicians per 100,000 people, while the median in the United States is 239. Also, more than half of the state’s residents live in rural areas, 80 out of Mississippi’s 82 counties are medically underserved, and 94% of the counties have shortages of primary care physicians who practice family and internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, and more. It is a wonderful place to live and practice, but we need more physicians.
Some peers were working at an OB hospitalist program at a hospital in Jackson, Mississippi. They knew that I was frustrated by the limitations I experienced and invited me to participate. So, after balancing private practice and being an OB hospitalist for 3 years, I eventually realized that I could provide a better level of service by going full time.
The reasons for doing so included:
- Being part of a team—There is no denying that the turmoil of the past couple of years has impacted healthcare and nearly everyone associated with it. Nevertheless, as an OB hospitalist and site director, I have been able to remain part of a solid working team. It has allowed me to better serve my patients and enjoy satisfying collaborations with other clinicians across the country, something that was not available to me in private practice where I had a limited network of doctors with whom I interacted. Being an OB hospitalist has allowed me to support other private practice doctors who are juggling 50 things all at once, as I once did. When you have help, you provide better patient care, and through my work as a hospitalist, I get to help others do that every day.
- Less worry about private practice costs—I cannot speak for everyone, but leaving private practice lifted a tremendous burden off my shoulders. In fact, I felt liberated, and that surprised me. But I quickly became happier because I was suddenly able to practice medicine without having to factor cost into every decision. I think that for everyone who goes into medicine, no matter the specialty, it is easy to link self-worth with one’s practice. I am hardly unaware of costs but being a hospitalist has allowed me to practice medicine without having to factor cost into every decision I make.
- Increased balance—Medscape’s 2022 Physician Burnout and Depression Report revealed that, in 2021, obstetricians and gynecologists experienced the third highest rate of burnout among all physicians. Better balance has always been a selling point of becoming an OB hospitalist, and when I was in private practice and burning the candle at both ends, I started to wonder, “Why am I doing this? How am I benefiting my patients and my family at this rate?” Becoming a full-time hospitalist not only made me feel better about my career and life, it also made me a better work partner, spouse, and parent.
For me, it comes back around to my original intention: to provide the best care in a region with the most need. I cannot overstate how satisfying it is that as a clinician and Ieader, I can help shape how OB care is delivered in my own state.
Patients in Mississippi face challenges around access to care and I, and the hospitalists I work with, have helped fill some of those gaps. There is tremendous potential for OB hospitalists to do excellent work in Mississippi. People here come to us from all walks of life and circumstances, and we provide them with elevated levels of care and outcomes.
In medical school, we are not taught how to be leaders. However, I believe that the only limitations we experience are the ones that we place on ourselves. I have found further meaning in my career first becoming a site director and then a market medical director with Ob Hospitalist Group. I now have resources and access that allowed me to acquire the skills and knowledge I needed to collaborate with more clinicians, hospital leaders and ancillary staff—all the while developing critical people skills that continue to empower me as leader.
I never thought that being a leader and manager would be something that I would incorporate into my medical career. But as I have matured in my career, I have developed a broader view of how healthcare is delivered in my community and state. Being an OB hospitalist has provided me with an excellent vehicle for positively impacting maternal care and a deeply rewarding career.