In case you haven't noticed, it's summer! That means it's time to take a vacation, spend time with the kids, or just unwind for a bit. But for most private-practice owners, summer can be the toughest time of the year. Covering for other staff members' vacations means more stress on everyone in the office, and taking your own vacation means worrying about the practice the whole time you're away. And, of course, if you're not seeing patients, you're not getting paid.
But that doesn't have to be the case.
Hiring a locum tenens physician for the summer months — or any time you need more coverage — not only takes the extra burden off the other physicians in the practice, but it allows you to continue to see patients and bill for services.
Unfortunately, many practice owners don't know where to find a locum tenens physician to fill in. There are now dozens, if not hundreds, of locum tenens companies helping practices and facilities find doctors for temporary assignments. But not all locum tenens agencies are created equal. When evaluating staffing partners, make sure to ask the agency the following questions:
1. Are you a credentialing expert?
Though locum tenens doctors are great for planned staffing needs, they're often used when you need someone right away. You'll get a doctor quicker when you work with a locum tenens agency that is large enough to have its own in-house credentialing team and is also skilled in licensing and privileging.
2. Do you cover your doctors?
You should expect the locum tenens agency to take care of the physician's malpractice insurance, travel, and housing. You should also be confident that the staffing company is competent in addressing issues in any or all of these areas, should they arise.
3. Do you maintain high ethical standards?
Standards for the locum tenens industry are driven by NALTO, the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations. Companies that belong to NALTO (about 50 percent of all agencies) agree to live up to the organization's strict ethical standards, including maintaining physicians' privacy and honoring all contractual agreements.
4. Do you handle litigation management?
Hopefully, you and your patients will have nothing but good experiences with your locum tenens physicians. But if something goes wrong, your best defense is a locum tenens staffing company with dedicated risk and legal personnel. You'll also want a staffing company that is connected to the medical experts and malpractice defense attorneys in your specialty so they can assist with the case.
5. Do you take care of your own employees?
I'm a strong believer that you get better service from people who are happy at their jobs. Happy employees also tend to stick around, meaning that you won't have to work with a new agent every time you call the agency. Modern Healthcare issues a comprehensive list of reputable companies in their annual Best Places to Work in Healthcare report.
More than anything else, the locum tenens staffing agency you choose should be professional and provide exceptional customer service. You and your patients deserve the best. Don't settle for less!