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BVHS Weekend Column: OB Hospitalist Program

by Dawn Hochstettler, MD

A growing number of hospitals are employing obstetric (OB) hospitalists as part of their clinical staff. But what is an OB hospitalist? How do they change the scope of obstetric care offered at a hospital? And what does this new model of practice mean for you or your loved one?

Hospitalist care first started in the mid-1990s. The OB hospitalist is present in the labor and delivery unit 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This model was developed as a way to help provide more immediate and efficient care to patients who present to the hospital. It also allows OBGYNs to spend less time on call. When in the office, they are also able to focus more of their attention on outpatient needs without interruption. These changes help decrease physician burnout among OBGYNs. This is critical, as OBGYN physicians experience high rates of burnout, which leads to a decreasing number of physicians entering the field and causes current OBGYN physicians to leave the field.

Since its inception, this model has progressed into a role that specializes in the most advanced and emergent obstetrics situations. Having the opportunity to be primarily surrounded by experts within the obstetrics portion of women’s health elevates the level of care offered to every patient who steps foot into the labor and delivery unit. Additionally, the OB hospitalist has taken on the roles of a team leader, safety officer, and care coordinator in the labor and delivery unit. They are adept at situational awareness, constantly evaluating the needs of the unit. This is essential to a safe and well-functioning labor and delivery, even if they are not the primary delivering provider for a particular patient.

The OB hospitalist is always aware of any sudden, emergent changes that are possible and is ready at a moment’s notice. They are able to provide this care for their own patients or support a fellow OBGYN in the care of their patients. At a time when maternal mortality in the United States is one of the highest among other developed nations, the OB hospitalist is positioned in a critical role to impact maternal safety directly.

What does this mean for you as an expecting parent? First and foremost, it means you have access to specialized obstetrics care 24 hours a day. With the focus placed on the patients during labor and delivery, you can expect hands-on care during your birthing experience. The OB hospitalists are not intended to replace the providers you are seeing throughout your pregnancy in the outpatient setting. They are an extension of your care team. They are compassionate physicians who are passionate about delivering quality healthcare to you during this most exciting and sometimes stressful time. OB hospitalists are always there to help you in whatever way you need.

Healthcare is constantly changing and evolving, striving to do better and deliver the best possible outcomes. Women’s healthcare is no exception. By extending its staff to include OB hospitalists, hospitals and health systems adopting this type of program have made it clear they are taking the steps necessary to foster an environment where happy and healthy mothers and babies are a priority.

Dawn Hochstettler, MD Obstetrics & Gynecology             OB Hospitalist Program at Blanchard Valley Hospital

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