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Get to know Dr. Pinnelas, a pediatric hospitalist

January 06, 2014

Over 20 years ago, I began my career in Orlando as a private pediatrician. I was very happy as an office-based pediatrician, and I never dreamed I would have changed my career path. I always enjoyed making hospital rounds before going back to the office for the rest of the day. I also had an opportunity to teach students and residents at the hospital which was intensely rewarding. The hospital approached me over 14 years ago and asked if I would be willing to start something “new” which was to create the Pediatric Hospitalist Service at Arnold Palmer Hospital. Becoming a pediatric hospitalist was a very new specialty in the United States. It had just started to gain some traction in the adult patient population but was rare in pediatrics. I was game, so with my best friend and mentor, Matthew Seibel and two of the best nurses on planet earth, we founded this new venture.

So what is a pediatric hospitalist?

A pediatric hospitalist is a physician who only cares for patients in the hospital; most don’t have an outpatient practice. The concept of a pediatric hospitalist makes so much sense for so many reasons and here are just a few.

Most office-based pediatricians who still come and see their own patients at the hospital need to get back to their office quickly. These pediatricians typically get to the hospital early in the morning. They then make rounds and leave the hospital for the day to take care of their office-based patients. The remaining management of their patient’s care is via telephone conversations with the nursing staff for any subsequent problems or issues that may arise after they have left. Before hospitalist service existed, this is how all pediatricians handled their hospitalized children and newborns.

The pediatric hospitalist doesn’t have an office to race back to, therefore we can manage problems and issues all day long as often as we need to, in person. Parents appreciate seeing someone in person when their child needs any sort of attention.  It is comforting to the parents because they know we are there at the hospital to help them navigate any scenario. We coordinate their care with specialists, surgeons and therapists- anyone that is involved in the care of the child. Since we are based solely in the hospital, we know these individuals well and can have face-to-face interactions to discuss the patient’s needs. It also allows office-based pediatricians to spend more time with the patients in their office. It’s a win-win for everyone.

When making rounds at Arnold Palmer Hospital, we conduct what is called bedside-family-focused rounds. These rounds are extremely comprehensive and include three physicians, our rounding nurse, hospital-based nurses, a pharmacist, a social worker, a respiratory therapist, sometimes a clergyman, the patient and the parents of the child. There is discussion of the child’s problem and plan for the day. The child and the parents are encouraged to participate in these bedside rounds. This level of communication is wonderful for everyone involved. At Arnold Palmer Hospital, most of our patients are seen by one of our physicians at least two times per day and typically three or more times per day. We do whatever is necessary to provide the best possible care.

The very best part of my job, though, is the patients. They are why I love what I do. I remember one patient several years ago. This courageous young man was my favorite patient ever, and I will never forget him. He touched my heart and he touched my soul in such a profound way that I am a better doctor and person because of him. I was powerless despite all of the knowledge and resources available to diagnose or cure him. Nonetheless, he was so incredibly appreciative and grateful for what little I did do for him that he gave me a plaque, which says, “I believe in Superheroes.”

I have been blessed to be a part of so many people’s lives here in Orlando that it is mind-boggling to me. I would guess I’ve probably seen 100,000 patients over the years. Whether I am calming and reassuring the mother of a sick child I just admitted from the Emergency Room or telling the parents of a newborn that they have a healthy baby, I get to be the hero.

What a great gig.