Locum tenens has long been a great way for hospitals and clinics to quickly adjust to meet staffing needs, but it has become more complicated during the COVID-19 pandemic. With each successive surge, healthcare facilities have had to quickly ramp up in certain specialties — more hospitalists, critical care, and pulmonologists, for example — while dealing with a growing backlog of elective and non-emergent procedures waiting to be addressed.
With these new realities, locums providers continue to be an effective way to quickly adapt to meet the staffing needs of your facility in 2022, but it’s important to do it in a way that will protect your quality and revenue. Here are three best practices for using locums to address future COVID surges and the rising demand for non-emergent care.
1. Maintain provider quality and onboarding processes
“Just because there’s a crisis doesn’t mean we should take just anyone to take care of our patients and our families and friends,” says Francis DiBari, corporate director of physician recruitment at University of Maryland Medical System.
Despite all the recent changes, his facility continues to follow the same policies and procedures for hiring locums. In addition to health screenings, he makes sure all providers are vetted through the department and align with medical staff needs.
DiBari adds that it’s still important to go through onboarding processes with new locums providers, even if you only have time for an abbreviated version of what you’d normally do.
Mark Douyard, senior physician recruiter at Bayhealth Medical Center, says it’s especially helpful to find providers who have past experience working locums.
“Particularly in fields like emergency medicine — it’s a different mindset,” he says. “They’re used to coming into a new place, working sometimes with limited resources, and not having all the information and are still able to be effective and efficient. You need someone who can walk in, step in, and be effective right from the get-go.”
2. Strengthen your partnerships
In a challenging time that puts pressure on your system, good partnerships become more important than ever. You can’t do it alone, so having locums staffing partners that you can trust is essential.
“In a good partnership, there has to be trust and communication. I think that’s really where we’ve seen the bright spots in the business — working with our strategic partners in a very proactive manner and trying to stay ahead of things rather than reacting as things unfold,” says Cindy Slagle, vice president of CHG Healthcare’s Enterprise Client Solutions.
Thomas Lanvers, who is also a vice president of CHG Healthcare’s Enterprise Client Solutions team, echoes the importance of honest and upfront communication in a collaborative partnership.
“That is how you as a client build trust with us as an agency, just being candid and upfront,” he says. “If there is a Plan A and a Plan B and we’re plan C — that is perfectly acceptable. Us knowing that and being able to communicate that to the providers that we’re working with is paramount.”
3. Plan for the future
How is your facility planning for the next COVID surge or continued growth in demand for non-emergent procedures? How will you help overworked staff recover from burnout? Administrators all over the country are asking themselves these questions, and there are no easy answers.
Bringing in locums physicians to help facilities during surges in demand is one way to provide care without permanently changing the nature of the hospital’s staff.
DiBari urges hospital administrators to learn from this experience. “I think this is going to illuminate some of the opportunities to make things more efficient. I think it’s incumbent on us to highlight what those efficiencies were during this crisis. Building a pandemic recruitment strategy is something that we all need to do,” he says.
Part of that strategy for DiBari involves working closely with his locums partners. “How can we partner together to make sure that we understand the needs of each other, and that we can get this done more efficiently. It’s the building of relationships that is going to be the most important part of all of this crisis. And hopefully coming out of the other end, we’ll all be better for it.”
Likewise, locums companies are also thinking about how they can do better in the future. “How can all of us work together in a more lean and efficient approach to increase our response times and become faster in our work?” asks Slagle. “We’ve spent a lot of time at Weatherby looking at how we can continue to evolve our emergency response times and make it easier for clients to work with us.”
Weatherby Healthcare can help you meet your 2021 staffing needs. Give us a call at 954.343.3050 for a consultation.