I love my job.
"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." – Confucius
Everyone knows this Confucius quote. Its overuse makes it sound cheesy, unrealistic, and it’s dubious that a Chinese philosopher who died in 479 BC could still be relevant in today’s fast-paced modern world. I am, however, now a believer because I love my job and it doesn’t feel like work. Honestly.
I enjoyed having a solo general ob.gyn. practice and reveled in its multidimensional challenges: running an office, being able to choose my own great staff, developing long-term rewarding relationships with my patients, and doing complex gynecologic surgeries. However, after 28 years, I heard Dr. Lou Weinstein give the first lecture I was aware of at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Annual Clinical meeting in 2005 about ob.gyn. hospitalists. I returned home and put my practice up for sale.
I wanted to use my array of skills outside a traditional office setting and reduce my stress levels. To find that elusive work/life balance and influence best practices in obstetric medicine, I needed to find a job that I loved, not merely enjoyed.
Five years ago, I found a second career in which I could do all these things, truly specialize in obstetrics, and hone my clinical skills into a defined purpose: improving patient care and safety. I became an ob.gyn. hospitalist.
Prior to becoming an ob.gyn. hospitalist, my biggest frustration at my private practice was that I constantly had to be in two or three places at once. Balancing this physical impossibility among laboring patients, keeping office appointments, and being required in surgery was my greatest source of stress. Today, my attention is focused solely on labor and delivery (L&D). My hospital doesn’t require me cover to emergency department gynecology, which I believe is safer for the patients because, without additional gynecological responsibilities, I am not overextended and can focus all my energy exactly where it is needed. It is safer for women in labor to have me physically present in L&D rather than be in the ER, or worse, in the operating room.
Safety is what drives the whole ob.gyn. hospitalist movement. It is gratifying to see all of the reports of patients "saved" because of the presence of an ob.gyn. hospitalist. (Become a registered ObGynHospitalist.com member to see more than 40 examples of "saves and "near misses" in the Discussion forum under the Clinical Issues tab). We are working on collecting data to prove this, and the Society of Ob/Gyn Hospitalists (SOGH) has a dedicated Research, Education, and Safety Committee to document what we already anecdotally know.
One of my first "saves" as an ob.gyn. hospitalist came about when a family practitioner was attempting to deliver a baby at 2 a.m. and encountered a severe shoulder dystocia he couldn’t resolve. By the time I arrived in the delivery room, it had already been between 2 and 3 minutes. I was fortunate to be able to step in and complete the delivery without harm to either the mother or infant. In contrast, if an on-call obstetrician had been summoned from home, there may have been a very different outcome.
The combination of experience, skills, and, most importantly, my presence in L&D created a positive outcome. This is another reason I love my job: I can truly make an immediate difference just by being there. And that’s not work.
Dr. Olson is an ob.gyn. hospitalist in Bellingham, Wash., founding president of the Society of Ob/Gyn Hospitalists, and founder of www.obgynhospitalist.com. He is a consultant for ob.gyn. hospitalist programs.