Locum Tenens

8 behaviors that will make you a better locum tenens physician

How to be a better locum tenens physician

Locum tenens is frequently described as a win-win situation. Facilities benefit from physicians temporarily filling staffing voids and maintaining continuity of care. Clinicians get to experience different practice settings, work with diverse patient populations, and visit new communities without making a long-term commitment. The most successful locum tenens physicians have several common behaviors that ensure they are always in demand. Here are eight tips that will help you become a better locum tenens physician.

1. Be responsive to requests

It goes without saying that any physician presented for a temporary position must be vetted for the mandatory clinical and licensure qualifications. Completing the necessary paperwork can be a chore, but it’s also an opportunity to create a positive first impression. Set the tone for success right from the start by providing the necessary documentation as quickly as possible. Your timely responses to information requests will always be appreciated and will enhance your reputation before you even set foot in the facility.

Neurologist Dr. Sandeep Aggarwal says even though getting licensed and credentialed may be a frustrating process, he stays patient. “The credentialing process can take up to three months, but I just follow the wisdom of the locum company and submit materials as requested. Being impatient can lead to frustration on all ends.”

2. Be proactive in sharing information

Of course, having the right clinical qualifications for an assignment is crucial, but the summary on a CV only serves as an overview of who you are. Be proactive in sharing the details and specifics of your career, procedural repertoire, and strengths with both staffing agency consultants and facility administrators. Expounding on the details allows managers to draw a more complete picture of you as a physician and how your abilities will aid their patients. Also, it’s important to spell out your expectations for assignment specifics with consultants so they present opportunities that best match your preferences.

3. Be flexible

If you’re interested in learning how to improve as a locums, there’s probably no more valuable trait than flexibility. Even though staffing agencies diligently strive to address contract details, things can always go awry. Start dates postponed. Flights cancelled. Shift schedules changed. Consultants, administrators, and coworkers appreciate locum tenens physicians who smoothly adjust to the inevitable unexpected.

Some physicians find that working with larger, more-established locum agencies like Weatherby Healthcare helps mitigate these issues, as they have the manpower and resources to be the go-between.

“They’re going to help you get licensed, credentialed, and they know exactly what the paperwork is that needs to be done,” says Dr. Joan Pellegrini, a trauma critical care physician working locum tenens. “It makes a world of difference.”

4. Remember you’re a guest

It’s true your services are being contracted because there’s a clinical need. It’s also true that you’re basically an unknown entity to staff, and will only be in their facility for a short time — kind of like a guest worker — so extend the appropriate respect. It’s not the locum tenens physician’s responsibility to walk in, take a look around, and start changing the workflow. Instead, the most successful locums adapt to fit new surroundings and protocols as long as they don’t place patients in harm’s way.

Kayla Silver, physician recruiter with Monument Health in Rapid City, SD, says the best locums she’s found are those who integrate well. “When a locum physician integrates well with our clinic, patients, and staff, it makes it so much better all around. These are the locums we look for.”

Also, when in doubt about how a unit functions, ask questions of staff, especially while familiarizing yourself with a new setting.

3 physicians talking

5. Be friendly

You’re more likely to enjoy the locum tenens experience by making friendly gestures toward your new peers. Learn as many names as you can. Extend common courtesies. Not only will these niceties help foster an enjoyable workplace, but establishing friendly connections could incentivize support staff and colleagues to more openly assist you in your transition to a new environment.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nicholas Kusnezov says people often bend over backward to help a friendly physician. “And everyone you work with has a unique ability to make your life easier and your experience more pleasant — or make it all the more difficult,” he says. “So be kind. It’ll set you apart.”

Although you may be the one initiating the extra effort, the potential for a positive return on investment is quite high. In fact, many locum tenens professionals have cemented relationships that have long outlived the actual contracts.

6. Be willing to ask for help, then pay it forward

Staffing agency consultants are always on hand to answer physicians’ questions about an assignment, including travel and housing concerns. They’re definitely a great resource, but sometimes it’s nice to hear from someone who has been there, done that. Ask for a referral to other locum tenens physicians from whom you can solicit first-hand knowledge and advice. It could be particularly insightful to speak with a doctor who previously worked the same assignment you are considering. But then pay it forward. Offer to act as a resource for individuals new to locum tenens.

7. Make a positive impression

From start to finish, impress upon all involved that you’re a professional who is dedicated to providing quality care to patients and facilities in need.

“Be available for consults from and discussions with other providers,” Dr. Kusnezov says. “Be quick to respond and easy to work with. Providers will remember this. Word travels quickly in the medical field and this will draw in more business for you. Of course, the converse of this holds true as well.”

Also show professionalism beyond the bedside. Dress appropriately. Communicate in a friendly and respectful manner. Call your consultant with status updates. These simple actions should bode well in collecting references for future assignments, and perhaps even securing encore invitations from facilities.

8. Enjoy the experience

Caring for patients, meeting new people, and living in a new community can be richly rewarding when you embrace it. Don’t forget to enjoy each new experience.

Article updated June 22, 2022

About the author

Anne Baye Ericksen

Anne Baye Ericksen is a journalist and locum tenens subject-matter expert with more than two decades of experience. She was a regular contributor to LocumLife, Healthcare Traveler and Healthcare Staffing and Management Solutions magazines.