By Carol Wolfenbarger
President, Mission Hospital McDowell
The practice of medicine is considered both a science and an art. As such, the demands on physicians are many, including: clinical knowledge, curiosity and the ability to use deductive reasoning expertly, collaborative skills for working in concert with a care team, keen interactive skills for communicating with patients whose needs vary greatly and, of course, compassion.
This month we celebrate two important days honoring physicians. March 7 is National Hospitalist Day and March 30 is National Doctors Day. As we celebrate these medical care team members, I’d like to explain a bit about their work and how their roles are indispensable within Mission Hospital McDowell (MHM).
First, a bit of history. In the last two decades, the care model for patients has changed considerably. Instead of nurses and physicians predominantly acting as the primary caregivers in hospital and medical office settings, the creation of care teams has become the standard care model. The newer team members who have emerged during this time include hospitalists, those physicians who exclusively care for hospitalized patients, oversee their transition home and communicate with their primary care physicians to ensure that they are appropriately updated regarding the patient’s hospital stay. The presence of a hospitalist, who is available 24/7 to manage our patients, has become an important specialty.
Advanced practitioners, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, are now key members of the care team at every level. Each has postgraduate training to care for primary and/or specialty patients. They diagnose illnesses, create treatment plans and also have the ability to prescribe medication, among other duties. Both must engage regularly in continuing education and in North Carolina are overseen by licensed physicians. Nurse practitioners in particular often focus on preventive care for patients and ensuring that patient’s emotional and physical needs are met.
Most of us know that after college all physicians attend medical school, work as residents for at least three years and choose from among general or specialty practices. Primary care physicians follow their patients over time, while specialists such as obstetrician-gynecologists concentrate on providing women’s healthcare services to patients.
Each one of these care team members is important in helping our community members become be well, get well and stay well. As the care team approach has evolved over the past 20-30 years, it is now seen as the best way to provide safe, continuous, coordinated care to patients. Because it is a collaborative model across all settings, each provider plays a unique and important role in updating other care team members about a patient’s health, needs and development. Within Mission Health hospitals and physicians, a common electronic medical record ensures that all patient data is available at each point of care.
I’m very grateful to all the hardworking, skilled and dedicated Mission hospitalists, advanced practitioners and physicians who we celebrate this month. These are the professionals who care for all of us each and every day – whether in the emergency department, Mission My Care Now, the hospital, or one of our family practice or specialist’s offices. I celebrate these wonderful providers and the continuous contribution they make to improving lives with compassion.
Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE, is President of Mission Hospital McDowell. She holds both Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees in nursing administration from the University of Tennessee, is board certified in Healthcare Management and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Carol, who has served hospitals and health systems for more than three decades, has worked to add full-time cardiology services, led growth in outpatient services including imaging and surgery, and the expansion of primary care offering in Burke County since assuming her role as President at McDowell Hospital in 2015. She is an active member in Rotary and serves as a Board member for the Rutherford/Polk/McDowell Health District Board of Directors, the Corpening YMCA Board of Directors, and the McDowell County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.