When it comes to preparing for an assignment, there are a few important considerations that are essential to ensuring a seamless start to your locum tenens assignment.
Before you arrive
First and foremost, communication is paramount. Make sure to establish a direct line of communication with the hospital coordinator for your assignment. Having a primary point of contact at the hospital avoids the potential for valuable information to be dropped or miscommunicated by third parties. The coordinator can help you with whatever training is needed and forward any important documents that may need to be completed prior to starting.
Some training will unavoidably require you to be on-site and in-person, but there will be the occasional online trainings (HIPAA for instance) that you will be able to complete remotely and thereby avoid delays or issues with credentialing and starting on time.
For your first assignment at a new location, if possible, arrive early that day or the day prior in order to get set up before you start call or clinic. Although you’re typically allotted a day to settle in, you may start on a weekend or a holiday, necessitating special arrangements for your orientation. Make sure that you lock down the day and time for orientation to avoid an unnecessarily cumbersome start.
Verify your schedule
Always verify that your schedules match prior to arrival. There are a number of middle-men involved in this process and, as a result, it is not uncommon for assignment dates to be erroneously changed or dropped between you, the locum company, and the institution — and the latter two often have multiple agents involved in the process. In my experience, this invariably will happen at some point. I would recommend verifying the date and time that you are scheduled to start and finish your assignment each time you make travel arrangements, regardless of how many times you have worked at the given institution. Additionally, I would be sure to obtain and verify a point of contact with whom to receive and to give sign-out for the given block of dates. This ensures continuity and the best possible patient care.
A good first impression
From a professional standpoint, always dress to impress. Regardless of how casual your conversations may be with the hospital coordinator or hospital faculty, err on the side of dressing professionally. First impressions are paramount and will often set the tone for your time at that assignment. I would recommend business attire for the first day — after which the expectations and policy of the facility or clinic, hospital, and OR attire can be established. You will never be knocked for overdressing, but you will hear stories of predecessors arriving underdressed, in scrubs, sweat clothes, etc. Don’t be that story. You are a reflection of the institution.
Align on goals and capabilities
Lastly, make sure you and the institution discuss your goals for the assignment. For instance, a hospital may be interested in increasing their total joint arthroplasty volume, while you are instead looking to do chiefly hand cases. It’s important that these goals are elucidated and it’s ideal if they are comparable or at least reconcilable. It may be that your initial goals are beyond the capabilities of the hospital as it stands, but a better understanding of these goals may drive hospital-based improvements and facilitate this for future assignments there. You will find that physicians have an enormous capacity to facilitate positive changes in hospital efficiency, capabilities, and patient care.
Work to understand and clarify the capabilities of the hospital and how that system specifically works. For instance, this may involve verifying what severity of trauma and degree of patient comorbidities the institution is comfortable dealing with, both operatively and post-operatively.
Additionally, weekend staffing and capabilities should be elucidated ahead of time. It is important to eliminate ambiguity prior to starting so you aren’t overwhelmed with situations well beyond what you expected and, vice versa, so you don’t overwhelm the system with situations beyond which the hospital is capable of handling.
With these considerations in mind, you should be more than prepared for your assignment and to give the best impression possible.