At All Star Recruiting, we believe the use of locum tenens providers should be viewed as a part of the solution and not so much a problem for our clients. But even the most organized and coordinated on-boarding doesn’t replace good old common sense and management skills when it comes to effective utilization of a locum tenens provider. This is where working with a recruiting agency like us can make all the difference.
Practice managers who use locum tenens are habitually buried in procedural struggles in the wake of being short staffed and trying to catch up. They find it very difficult to manage the full-time physicians during these transition times, so the thought of also handling the placement of locums is a large time-management challenge. In my past life “on the facility side” of the equation, I sometimes watched great clinical providers have unsuccessful experiences due to unexpressed expectations and lack of day-to-day operational administration. The common expectation is that the locum physician will hit the ground running and have the same productivity as the “everyday” physician they are covering for; despite having no time to acclimate to a new process or environment. Occasionally that can happen, but more often than not, there are bumps in the road. Working with a locum tenens firm that understands where the potential bottlenecks are and can set proper expectations for the locum provider and the client is vital to a smooth transition. A proactive consultant who anticipates needs and assists with all aspects of planning can eliminate many if not most, of the issues or red tape that may arise.
Setting Expectations – Some Examples
Is the provider aware of the daily start times? Not just the time of their earliest scheduled appointment, but when they should arrive to get ready for the day, meet with the staff, and be prepared to see their first patient. What about smaller details like lunch periods? Many providers say they don’t take lunch to get records completed or catch up on the backlog of patients from the morning. This may seem harmless, but could lead to issues with reliability and burnout.
Is “overtime” or call hours permitted by the locum tenens provider, and who needs to know/authorize this prior to the end of the week or assignment? Providers should understand the call expectations and the history of the hours needed to fulfill the patient load. No client wants to receive a timesheet for approval with a lot of unexpected hours. It is a sticky situation for all involved and leads to misunderstandings when not addressed upfront.
Does the provider know the expected number of patients to be seen and the scheduling intervals for new patients versus follow-ups? Remember, every patient is new to this locum physician initially, so you may want to consider a lighter load for the first few days/weeks.
In addition to patient load, consideration as to payers are part of scheduling efficiency. If you are fully credentialing the provider with payers, it takes several weeks and sometimes months. If at all possible, it is best to place the majority of the Medicare and government payer patients with the new provider. A facility can back bill for Medicare (and Medicaid and Tricare in many states,) where you may not be able back bill for commercial payers.
Has the practitioner worked with your medical records system before? Even if trained for a few hours, it will take them more time with a new system. This can be a roadblock for many locum tenens providers in a busy practice. Once they get behind, it is very frustrating to catch up and once again, could lead to additional hours worked and potential burnout.
Performance and Counseling
Everyone likes to gauge how they are doing when in a new position, and locum physicians are no exception. Regular feedback, counseling, and reinforcement will make them feel part of the team and eliminate misunderstandings. This is also an area where a locum tenens consultant could serve as a great liaison. Prior to the provider’s arrival, define who will be the person responsible to deliver the feedback, and then make sure meetings are routinely scheduled with that provider. If possible, it is always best to have a peer and a manager as the supervising team.
Staff Introductions and Relationships
Colleagues can play a critical role in the success of the locum’s assignment. Staff that feel “out of the loop” or who have strong ties to the practitioner that has departed can potentially present resistance with locum tenens providers. Their “buy-in” makes a world of difference.
In summary, be sure to utilize your agency relationship with the recruiters and consultants through candid conversations about the environment the provider is walking into, your expectations, their expectations, and any challenges during past locum assignments you have had. These discussions help the consultant to frame the workplace and prepare the provider to meet the specific needs and objectives of a practice. Additionally, agencies often offer a platform for specific feedback in the way of surveys. These are a critical component of affirming that only the best practitioners are presented for future assignments. While it may take a few extra minutes to provide the feedback, your participation will be greatly appreciated and help to ensure the future quality and integrity of practitioners working in your institution and others.
All of the above should make for a more pleasant experience for the provider, you, and the patients in the community you serve; and isn’t that the real goal? It’s our objective at All Star to help attain these objectives, so please call us for more details or if you have any questions.
Arlene Macellaro is the VP of Business Development and Client Relations for All Star Recruiting. She can be reached at AMacellaro@allstarrecruiting.com.
"When I was initially contacted by All Star, I had already been approached by several companies and presented to quite a few opportunities so I didn't think I needed to speak to another firm. What I didn't count on was All Star having another eight positions which other agencies didn't have. Now I'm happily working at one of the options they offered. Thanks!"
- Bal A., M.D.
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