Working locum tenens (Latin for placeholder) can be a good way to supplement your income, experience different ways of doing things or even allow greater freedom within your schedule. Whatever the reason may be, finding the right assignment is key to your success.
Locum assignments can range from a few days to a few months and even beyond. Locations also vary from major cities to rural areas that appear removed from civilization. Commutes could simply be helping at another facility close to home or traveling halfway across the country. It all depends on your personal preference and how availability. If doing it alone seems daunting there are plenty of agencies willing to help, knowing which agency to go with can be a difficult decision. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started.
The Right Agency
When it comes to finding an agency, bigger isn’t always better. Val Jones, MD for the blog KevinMD.com wrote a very honest overview to help physicians know how to find the right fit stating:
One would think that there would be an advantage to being represented by the “Platinum level” locums agency because they’d negotiate higher pay rates for you, but what happens is that they negotiate high pay rates and then don’t pass it along … In addition, I’ve had a Platinum agency take 3 months to pay me, whereas another agency regularly turned my time sheet into direct pay in 7 days. So be forewarned – the biggest, shiniest agency might not be your best bet. Unfortunately, smaller agencies (who may be more generous with salary rates) sometimes suffer from skeleton crew staffing and fall short of being able to triage travel disasters and manage client-related problems as needed.
Ultimately, Dr. Jones’ advice for finding the right agency is to find one that is big enough to give you the service you need, but small enough to keep the overhead down. While size and pay rate is essential, above all, she stresses that building a strong relationship with a recruiter is even more important. Stressing that they will be your lifeline and your advocate. “Their role is to lobby for you, and keep the hospital accountable for your workload and work environment.”
Environment: A cautious welcome
Speaking of the work environment, it doesn’t matter what occupation someone is in, a good work environment comes with any career choice. Especially for those far away from home, it’s easy to feel out of place.
Stephen P. King, MD in Today’s Hospitalist’s article ‘The Locum Life’ said in his experience people are generally welcoming, but that first week of an assignment he usually feels a higher level of scrutiny in his choices. He gave an example of a nurse who expressed concern about a small amount of blood found in a urine test. Resolving the situation, Dr. King said, “I took her concern seriously and ensured that she was comfortable with my explanation.” Being able to respond well to criticism will go a long way to winning over the staff at your assignment location and help build a reputation will pay dividends in the long-run.
Credentialing: Plan ahead
Working locum can help avoid much of the corporate red tag, with credentialing it is unavoidable, but there are ways to weather the storm. Regardless of whether a need is immediate or several months away, credentialing can stop the whole process before it starts. On average, this process will take between 60 and 90 days. While in some cases emergency privileges may be an option, for the most part, you will want to plan ahead in order to get the process completed on time.
Going through an agency can help by wading through the mountain of paperwork for you, but Dr. Jones is quick to point out this can be a double-edged sword. She argues that while an agency’s credentialing staff can help, their competency and responsiveness can vary from agency to agency. Again size matters here. Finding an agency not too big and not too small makes all the difference. Dr. Jones recommends to help avoid such problem would be to fill out the paperwork beforehand and give the agency copies. For some this may not always be an option, whatever you choose, the credentialing process is just one more important factor to consider when finding locum work. While a cumbersome and tedious process, remembering the rewards especially to those patients that may not get the same quality of care otherwise.