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Four ways to Make the Most of Your Locum Tenens Physicians


Locum tenens physicians share their tips for how practices can ensure a smooth transition when using temporary physicians.

In my last post, I wrote about how using a locum tenens physician is a great way to generate revenue for your practice while you’re on vacation. No doubt you have already packed your bags and are ready to go.

If you haven’t used a locum tenens physician before, you might be wondering how to ensure these temporary physicians transition smoothly to your practice. 

To help, we asked four career locum tenens physicians, with hundreds of assignments between them, to offer their perspective.

1. Let the recruiter know your comfort and experience level.
When using a recruiter to find a temporary physician, it’s really important to share whether your staff has any experience working with them. If not, ask for a more experienced locum tenens provider who feels comfortable taking the lead with less guidance.  Your physician recruiter can also help you put together an onboarding plan if you need one.

Here’s an example from one locum tenens physician that illustrates this perfectly:

“My first day on assignment at a VA teaching hospital they showed me my examination room and where to call on patients and that’s it. When I asked where I could find the liquid nitrogen (for dermatology), they responded, ‘Oh, that’ll come around about 10 o’clock when they bring it in from pharmacy.’ Well, that wasn’t going to do because I had patients starting at eight. So I had to learn my way around very quickly, and luckily it all worked out, but only because I’ve worked with enough VA hospitals to know how to be flexible.”

2. Be transparent about the assignment and your practice.
The more you can do to prepare your covering locum tenens physician prior to your time off, the more relaxed and confident he will be upon arrival. A detailed job description is a must, but above that you should divulge any additional detail that could be helpful. Consider these comments from locum tenens physicians: 

“My experience is that job descriptions are hardly ever accurate. What the facility tells you and the reality of the situation are frequently half a mile apart or more.”

“It would be really nice to know staffing expectations such as how many patients should be seen and what facilities are available. How many patients should I expect to see per hour? Do I get 20 minutes for a new patient, 10 for a follow up?”  

“As a locum tenens, I am picking up and moving from what is familiar to me so full transparency is important because I like to know everything. If I could potentially be entering a hostile environment, I want to know that and what the issue is.”
3. Talk to the locum tenens physician about billing expectations.
Not every practice follows exactly the same process for billing.  The temporary physician is there to help you as much as possible, and this includes capturing every available dollar for procedures performed in your absence.  Taking the time to walk her through billing expectations is worth the time.

Consider this comment from one locum tenens physician:

“I want to be better every time; I want to provide the best patient care and service to the client. But some places don’t give me much direction on how to help them more. For years, I haven’t had any coaching on the requirements for billing at a certain level. There’s one place that I worked at years ago where they did chart audits, and they came to me and said, ‘You know, you aren’t billing enough; your notes are so great you should be billing higher.' And so I did. I wish I could get more feedback like this.”

4. Treat the locum tenens as an extension of your team
Locum tenens may be temporary but the care they give should be seamlessly integrated with the care you provide. Take time to follow up with them at the conclusion of their assignment so you can pick up where they leave off. Here’s why:

“For those of us in primary care, as locum tenens it falls on us that patients know how to continue their care. I always try to make sure that for the people who are going to need follow-up care, that I know who will be providing that care, and that the appointment is scheduled. And then I assure them that it’s all been taken care of, because I’ve found that too many times if you don’t go that far, it doesn’t get done.”

Has your practice used a locum tenens physician? What recommendations would you share with other practices to ensure a smooth transition?

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