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How the program is assisting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The locum tenens industry first started in 1979. Since then it has become an integral part of healthcare by helping keep facilities appropriately staffed to deliver the best patient care. We’re currently facing a healthcare crisis unseen in modern times and the need for locums has never been stronger.
Locums and the COVID-19 crisis
The COVID-19 crisis is impacting the healthcare community from two sides: demand for care and a high risk of healthcare worker illness. Under normal conditions, the U.S. is experiencing a shortage of physicians, a predicted shortfall of 46,900 to 121,900 physicians by 2032. The shortage will become more pronounced as the influx of COVID-19 patients increases. For example, California is already projecting the need for a minimum of 20,000 extra beds. Locums will be crucial to meet this increased demand.
Nurse practitioner Kelly Lueck has been working a Locums assignment in New York since mid-March, helping with the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The need for locums in New York has been extremely high.
“The rooms in the entire ER are doubled up, tripled up, and they are all COVID. I am in a level one trauma center, and even the COVIDs are coming in as traumas. Everyone that comes in, regardless of reason is testing positive for COVID. Someone with an appendicitis came in and it was a positive COVID. It is the craziest thing I have ever seen,” said Lueck.
With healthcare providers on the front lines fighting against a disease for which there is no natural immunity, cases of infection amongst providers are rising and preventing them from delivering care due to quarantine or recovery. A doctor at a major New York hospital shared that as of March 30 more than 200 workers have fallen sick. Hospitals will need locums to help maintain coverage as those sick take time to heal.
While facilities are adapting to this crisis so is the Locum tenens industry. We are being as agile as we can as we strive to meet the needs of facilities across the country. We’re speeding up all of processes, helping some physicians to find jobs outside their specialty, and even placing some at-risk physicians in telemedicine options so they can still help in the fight.
With high infection rates and a lack of tests, almost every community needs additional support. Rural communities in particular report they are concerned about their ability to handle the increase in demand because their populations are generally older and sicker than those in urban areas and they have less access to care.
Locum tenens physicians, nurse practitioners, and PAs are needed nationwide and in their own communities as well. Locum tenens work is often associated with extensive travel, but locum providers don’t have to travel across the country for assignments. Many locums can work locally by taking additional shifts at a nearby hospital or care facility within driving distance.
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Locums also are well adapted to quickly working. In a recent locumstory.com article, Dr. Ripal Patel said:
“But a pandemic really shed another light on yet another incredible facet of locums work: we are trained-through this model-to parachute into any environment, EMR, or situation and be highly functional to optimize patient care. Need me in New York? I’ll be packed and on that flight. You have that Electronic Medical Record? I can learn it fast. That’s how you admit? That’s how my other hospitals do it. You’ve got that ultrasound machine? No problem, I’ll watch a YouTube video on how to operate it. No scribes? That’s not an issue, most of my places lack them. I am on my own for emergent airways and traumas? No sweat, that’s a typical day for me.”
For 40 years locums have been helping facilities deliver quality healthcare to those who need it. These hard-working physicians, PAs, and nurse practitioners are working across the country to provide support to overburdened healthcare systems. Now, more than ever, locum tenens providers are crucial to our healthcare system and are a playing a vital part in ensuring as many people receive care as possible during this crisis.
Lisa Grabl is president of CompHealth, the nation’s largest provider of locum tenens physicians and founder of the traveling physician industry. She joined CompHealth in 2001 as a sales consultant and served in a variety of management roles prior to being named president in 2017. Lisa is passionate about building lasting relationships and helping her team members reach their highest potential.