Working as a Locum Tenens physician and healthcare specialist requires continual adaptability, a perpetual mastery of new systems and reaps the benefits of mobility. While most doctors recognize the inherent stresses of the job, there are specific jobs that they try to avoid at all costs — the nightmare scenarios. Indeed, they are out there.
Many locum tenens physicians choose their exciting career path for the opportunity to experience new people, places and things. In general, the pay is good, and the work is quite rewarding. Often providers can select the assignments most compatible with their desired locations, but other factors are undoubtedly considered in the decision.
If you are a medical administrator with vacancies in your practice or hospital, you may be hoping to attract top talent to your open positions. To do so, it helps to know what locum tenens say about their best and worst assignments. By understanding what locum tenens physicians and APPs want, and the horror stories they want to avoid, you can shape your facility as a dream location for locum tenens and have your slots filled fast.
Be Upfront about Expectations
It’s best to clearly describe your potential caseload upfront. Suppose a doctor has been hired to temporarily join a general pediatric practice and arrives to discover that your facility is the only pediatric hospital serving multiple regions or counties. In that case, the volume of the caseload is likely more complex than average.
Locums doctors and staff want to know what they are signing up for and don’t want to be surprised upon arrival. By accurately describing the patient caseload and any specific expected skills, your locum tenens staff will immediately feel more confident from day one, stepping into a comfortable role. This understanding breeds job satisfaction and will help to make the experience more positive overall.
Supply Needed Resources
Doctors share horror stories of starting the first day of an assignment and not having the tools they need to do their work. These become “avoid at all costs” scenarios. Specifically, make sure your facility has adequate access to the necessary equipment and trainings in place to cover any procedure or patient need that your locum tenens doctor will be addressing.
In some cases, it makes sense to have a discussion or checklist before day one so all parties are on the same page and managers can order any needed resources.
Provide Adequate Intro to the Systems
Locum tenens providers are confident, self-starters with quick-thinking mindsets. Meanwhile, your specific hospital system is brand new to them. Your EMR or automatic drug dispensing system may be initially unfamiliar, as will particular policies and procedures unique to your setting. Any new system requires training and time for acclimation, so to properly support your providers, be sure to provide an adequate introductory period.
No one likes being thrown into chaos without preparation, and this includes the most skilled physicians. By creating a supportive, engaging introductory phase, and superb mentoring, you will receive excellent feedback from your doctors and attract new talent more readily.
Offer a Manageable Caseload
Physicians realize there is an ebb and flow to patient care, but sometimes the flow can feel like a tsunami. With the right tools and support, doctors can usually withstand an incoming wave. While most providers are aware to expect brief times of high volume, working consistently underwater is impossible.
To create an attractive and appreciated job situation, administrators should supply locum tenens providers with adequate staff support and offer a manageable caseload. By overwhelming a provider or expecting superhuman capability, you will be sure to end up on the “nightmare” location list for doctors and find it more challenging to fill your vacancies.
Understand the Stresses of Overtime – and Pay for It
Many physicians enter the locum tenens staffing pool to enjoy a better work/life balance. Because of this, they tend to prefer positions that support this value. Overtime is almost inevitable, and by honoring the boundaries of the contract you have offered, your providers will be more satisfied and want to stay longer or refer to their colleagues.
Most doctors will understand having to work over a few hours here or there, but consistent expectations of working 10 or 15 hours over will likely lead to physician burnout and dissatisfaction. And indeed, if you ask for overtime from your physicians and staff, pay for it. Horror stories abound of physicians working over their contract and then having to fight for compensation.
By honoring contracts as much as possible and compensating for agreed-upon overtime, you will create a positive work environment that attracts more providers to your site in the future.
Living the Dream
While you may not be able to move your hospital next to a beach to make it an exotic locale, there are many things you can do as an administrator to position your facility at the top of preferred assignments for locum tenens providers.
By knowing what providers seek in an experience and what they want to avoid, you will have more applicants, longer commitments, and an overall better locum tenens experience to help your bottom line.
You don’t want to scare potential providers away. By being aware of what’s important to locum tenens providers, all parties can have a positive experience and it may even lead to continued partnership or a permanent position.