Selecting a Locum Tenens Agency: Three Considerations for Physicians

December 11, 2013
Melissa Byington

Considering employment as a locum tenens physician? Selecting the right staffing agency will help ensure a positive experience.

If you are considering trying locum tenens, and if you are like most first-timers, your decision regarding which staffing company to work with probably has more to do with getting your desired practice location rather than with protecting yourself. But as a physician, you have a lot at stake and can’t afford not to take precautions.

For that reason, it's critical to select a staffing company that has the resources knowledge, and expertise to help protect you should any legal issues arise.

Once again, I’ve tapped into the expertise of my colleague, Morris Jensby, who oversees risk management for CHG Healthcare, the parent company of CompHealth locum tenens. Here’s what he advises physicians look for in a staffing agency:

Legal contract expertise:
There is no one-size-fits-all locum tenens contract that works for every physician. Therefore, you should always reserve the right to amend the terms of a contract before taking an assignment at a facility. For example, you may want to require that defense costs are in addition to policy limits or specify a practice limitation for a certain procedure. These are very important stipulations that need to be understood and agreed upon by the staffing company before you show up on the job.

Not every staffing agency has the prowess to amend a contract. It may try to assure you that any request can be attached to an agreement, but this kind of Band Aid approach presents a real risk to you. You’re in far better hands with a staffing company that has the legal expertise to address your specific concerns.

Ability to defend you:
A locum tenens company with dedicated legal and risk management personnel is critical if a claim is ever made against you following an assignment or an adverse patient event during an assignment. A legal team associated with the staffing company will know nuances of the locum tenens business, of course, but also key details about you and likely the facility, particularly if it is one of their clients. A staffing company without these resources would have to hand off your case to a third-party insurance company with limited knowledge of locum tenens staffing and no prior history with you or the facility.

State-by-state licensure and patient compensation funds experience:
Licensing compliance requirements vary widely across the country.  An experienced licensing team can ensure your compliance wherever you go. For states with mandatory patient compensation funds, you need a company with experience and proven expertise in enrollment and fund administration. A compliance failure could result in the suspension of your license both in the state in which you are temporarily employed and in the state in which you are primarily licensed.  

It’s true that not all locum tenens staffing companies are equal. There’s much more to think about when considering work as a locum tenens than just location and pay. Knowing all your bases are covered will help ensure a positive and memorable experience, which every locum tenens adventure can and should be.

Is your practice considering working with a locum tenens agency? Here are three often overlooked criteria to consider when selecting a staffing agency to work with.