Locum Tenens: What to know before starting

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You decide that a change of pace in your medical career is what you need. Someone suggests you try working as a locum tenens doctor. You might stop and wonder what locum tenens is. 

The Latin term, locum tenens refers to doctors who work on a temporary basis. They usually fill in vacated positions in hospitals or other healthcare facilities. The assignments are usually short-term but there are locums who accept long-term placements.

Most doctors prefer working as locum tenens or freelancers for several reasons:

1. Rates offered to locum tenens doctors are often higher;

2. Flexibility in work schedules and freedom to choose work hours;

3. Travel opportunities

4. Unhindered by the usual politics in hospital or other facilities;

5. Opportunity to work in different healthcare environments.

6. These reasons make working as locum tenens more favorable than in a permanent status.

What to do When You Land a Locum Tenens Job

It is important to prepare before you launch into your new adventure as a locum tenens physician. You can’t walk into a hospital, clinic or facility thinking that you know what to expect. 

Speak to a member of the medical team and learn from their experience. Find out what you need to do and what you need to avoid. 

Be familiar with the area around your workplace. Whether your assignment is short-term or long-term, it helps to know the neighborhood.

Do not bring your documents with you.  You may have all necessary papers collated and well-organized. But it will be more convenient to keep digital copies. Scan them and upload in a secure site. It will be easier to access them from anywhere.

It is also important to be aware of your tax breaks. As a freelancer, it means you are an independent worker. It will be your responsibility to report your earnings. 

Before the term for your current assignment ends, you may want to start looking for your next job ahead of time. 

Working locum tenens might be a good step for you. Take the plunge. As long as you know what to expect, you will enjoy its benefits. If in doubt, there are resources online that can help you every step of the way. 

What is Locum Tenens?

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Locum or locum tenens refers to a temporary worker who does the job of someone who is unable to report for work.  

The same term is applicable for physicians. If the regular doctor is absent, a locum tenens physician can take over the duties of that person. It can also be a doctor who does tasks in a hospital or practice that is short in staff. 

Locum doctors or freelance general practitioners are usually part of locum agencies. Some of these doctors work through freelance general practitioners chambers. 

These practitioners should be able to adapt to any situation without a problem. They should be excellent problem solvers, quick to think of solutions to any crisis. 

Temporary or short-term staffing is nothing new in the healthcare industry. It’s a solution that has been helpful in resolving shortage in staff.

Changes in Locum Tenens

Over the years, there has been an increase in the demand for locum tenens. There has also been noticeable changes. In the past, locum tenens doctors had worked at a span of one or two weeks. Lately, the duration of placements are longer, usually lasting for months. 

Locum tenens physicians before only worked on a freelance basis. But freelance doctors these days are likewise employed physicians. They can choose to work extra shifts for added income.

Pros and Cons in Working as a Locum Tenens Doctor

A locum tenens doctor has the advantage of working in different work environments. This allows them to gain experience in several specialization fields. An employee working in a permanent status may not have the same opportunity.

Working as a freelancer can have its disadvantages. Constant changes in work environment and adapting to different situations  can be stressful.  Due to the flexibility required, a locum tenens doctor may expect higher compensation. This may lead to increase in costs for organizations that hire temporary doctors. 

The healthcare industry is evolving. Continuous need for staffing makes the future look promising for locum tenens doctors.

5 Interview Questions For Your Next Healthcare Hire

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An interview is a vital part of the hiring process, especially in the medical field. Getting the right information may help you find the right clinician for your organization. The key here is to ask questions that may help you get to know the candidate beyond what you see on the resume.

Here are some ideas that you could use during the discussion:


1. Can you tell me something about yourself and your background?


All the information you may need might already be in a candidate’s resume. Most interviewers choose to ask this as an icebreaker. This is one way to test if the information the candidate cites will match what is in the resume. This is also a means to gauge a candidate’s communication skills.


2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?


This is a common question asked even in interviews for non-medical fields. It is a way to find out if a candidate can be an asset to your practice and to be aware of a candidate’s area of improvement. It can also help you assess if a candidate’s personality. An overconfident physician may not be fit for your practice. That said, it will be best to avoid candidates who
deem they don’t have weaknesses.


3. Has there ever been a time you had to deal with a difficult patient?


You can ask the candidate to elaborate. This will help you determine if the candidate is capable of handling challenges that may or may not require medical approach.


4. What made you choose this practice/hospital/specialty?


Knowing a candidate’s motivation for wanting to work for you may give you a clue on how dedicated they are. It is also important to know how familiar a candidate is with your practice. This will show how keen their interests are and how invested they are to learn about your organization.


5. Is there anything you’d like to ask or clarify?


Not having any questions may mean lack of interest, although that’s not always the case. If a candidate does ask questions, it shows their intent to know more about the job and the workplace environment.

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