It doesn’t matter if you work at a critical access hospital, industrial facility, rural healthcare clinic, or tribal medical center; when a new locum tenens is about to come into your location, they want to feel welcome and ready to get to work.
First impressions count for both the healthcare facility and the locum tenens. Making a good one can create lasting relationships between both parties for years to come. As an administrator or supervisor, it’s your responsibility to prepare your healthcare facility for your new arrival.
For clients who work with Wilderness Medical Staffing, we’ll work with you and your team to get more information and outline important information about your facility before the provider arrives. We communicate this information directly to the locum tenens, so they know what to expect upon arrival.
Here’s how to welcome a locum tenens to your healthcare facility.
Think Like a Locum Tenens
Many WMS clients have used locum providers extensively and are well acquainted with all that involves. But others may be less familiar with the use of “temporary duty” staffing or may have their own staffing changes and have someone new in the position of liaison for locum providers.
Most people have had the experience of being new to a community, the stranger in town. And everyone who’s ever started a job has gone through some iteration of the “first-day” hurdles…learning names and faces, orientation, figuring out the unspoken nuances of the workplace.
Think back to those times in your life, and then, imagine you’re a medical provider, arriving to offer medical care to a community for a few days, weeks, or even months. Imagine you’re about to become an immediate and vital member of a clinic team, maybe the only provider on-site, with varying levels of support available. Imagine you’re about to integrate into a community as a stranger, but someone who will quickly know the medical needs of everyone who walks in the clinic door.
Locum providers have a steep learning curve, from the moment they arrive for their assignment, and experienced providers know that going in. But whether it’s the first time being a locum provider or the 50th, some things don’t change. Everyone needs some information upfront to have the best experience possible, and everyone appreciates a warm welcome.
What can staff and community members do to help the locum provider settle in and make the experience exceptional? Many things!
As the saying goes, “begin at the beginning.”
Outline Clear Assignment Expectations
We always encourage providers to be flexible when arriving at a new facility. Every facility is set up and run differently, so having the providers enter an assignment with an open mind is essential to their success.
As the facility, you can welcome a locum tenens to your healthcare facility by having clear parameters for the assignment ready ahead of time. When working with a staffing agency like Wilderness Medical Staffing, our account executives will make sure assignment details such as duration, shift length, pay rates, patient volume, etc. are agreed upon by the facility and the provider before contracts are signed.
It’s your job to stick to these parameters and communicate with the provider (and the staffing agency) if any changes need to happen.
What to Communicate with Providers Before they Arrive
Think about the information that would be helpful to communicate before the locum provider arrives. Depending on the location and size of community, your setting may be quite different from the provider’s home. Here are a few suggestions of things you should communicate with your WMS account executive, so they can inform the provider before they begin packing for arrival at your facility.
Climate can have a big effect on the clothing and gear they should bring with them. Understanding the climate ahead of time can be extremely beneficial
What is the provider expected to wear while working? Are scrubs OK or should they bring business casual attire? Do you have other expectations for what they wear while working? If so, communicate that information.
We understand that many rural locations, especially in Alaska, require additional forethought before arriving on assignment. Explaining your options for grocery stores can be particularly important, so providers know if they can purchase groceries in the community, if they need to bring food, or if they need to order it to be shipped in from a larger city’s grocery store.
Will providers have access to various recreational facilities while working at your facility? Do you have access to a gym, pool, or other types of recreational activities?
Similar to recreational facilities, what other types of recreational opportunities are available near your facility? Will there be areas to hike, fish, or participate in other outdoor activities? Providers often appreciate rural locations because of the outdoor recreation, so this can sometimes be a selling point for your facility, too!
Cell Phone Service Carrier
It will be important to explain to providers what cell phone service is like at your facility since service can be less reliable in remote areas, so it’s important to communicate this ahead of time. If providers should acquire a specific type of phone before arriving on assignment, this needs to be discussed.
Since your locum tenens provider will be living near your facility, will they have a TV available in their home away from home? Should they be prepared to provide their own streaming device, such as a Roku?
Communicate directly, or through Wilderness staff, so the provider can pack appropriately and do any advanced planning that would be helpful.
To summarize, here’s your pre-assignment checklist to communicate with the locum tenens provider (or their staffing agency).
- Clinic Attire
- Recreational Facilities
- Recreational Opportunities
- Cell Phone Service Carrier
- In-House Entertainment
Many locum tenens providers take assignments lasting weeks to months out of their year. The housing that your facility sets up for them truly does become a home away from home. While most locum tenens providers aren’t expecting luxurious living conditions, the housing needs to be adequate, at a minimum.
WMS provides information on the type of housing for each assignment location and will also confirm if the provider will have a vehicle. The information we provide will cover questions about kitchen facilities, internet access, if there is a washer/dryer in housing, and if linens/bedding are provided. Providers will also want to know if housing is private, has shared common areas, is dorm-style, or other accommodations.
The housing should make the locum tenens providers feel like your facility cares about them and their overall well-being. You’ll want to supply a space that’s clean and efficient. A comfortable and clean bed is a must, plus assuring that the housing will be quiet for proper rest between shifts. Having a supply of dishes and kitchen essentials is important for assignments where the provider will be living for multiple days at a time.
You’ll also want to be sure that their safety is considered. You should have doors and windows that lock properly. The housing needs to have adequate heating and cooling options, so the provider is comfortable. They also will require clean water and working plumbing.
One of the most important things your housing should have is internet access. With providers often traveling hundreds to thousands of miles to work with your facility, having good internet access can help them to feel connected to their normal life while providing entertainment for their time off.
Share with providers who to call if there are any issues with housing, such as missing items or repairs that need to be made during their stay.
If there is anything unique to your housing or community that WMS should share with providers coming to your site, please let us know. (Please inform us if there have been significant changes to lodging or amenities. We update our client profiles and try to stay current so the information we give to providers is accurate.)
When working with WMS, we facilitate travel coordination with the provider on behalf of the facility. Your locum tenens provider should have everything they need to arrive for their assignment.
WMS will also confirm with clinic staff that someone will be on hand to meet the provider when they arrive and connect them with their lodging and vehicle. If the provider is new to the community, we encourage clients to arrange for the person picking them up to give them a community tour. (See below for more information about what to include in their tour.)
After arrival, be sure the provider knows the location of the clinic and what time they are expected to report for their first day of the assignment.
It is also helpful to the provider to have a general idea of the best ways to get places on their days off.
Many of the facilities we work with prefer to hold a provider orientation, usually the day before an assignment starts. Often, the orientation is an opportunity to tour the facility, meet some of the other staff members, and learn more about the resources you’ll have available to you.
When the provider arrives at the clinic for their first day, it’s helpful to have a schedule for orientation already set and printed for them.
During orientation, you should tour the medical facility, including showing them where the emergency room is. Explain any Medivac procedures, review x-ray and lab equipment, and break down how the facility typically operates. If there are any unique protocols to your facility, share that information too.
Not all facilities are set up with emergency video calling, such as what Avel eCare provides, but if your facility is, demonstrating to a new locum tenens how this software works when they need it can be a huge plus!
Don’t forget to train providers on your facility’s EHR/EMR equipment. Whether your facility uses Epic, Cerner, or a different system, the locum tenens provider must have at least basic knowledge to properly document patient notes and look up patient records.
To summarize, you’ll want to be sure to include these things in your orientation/to-do list for your locum tenens provider:
- Introductions to all staff
- Tour the facility – including where the break room and access to things like a staff refrigerator are
- Provide an ID badge, key card, and computer access, including pharmacy access for after-hours medication needs
- Emergency room set up
- Review x-ray and lab equipment
- Explain how to arrange a Medivac transport
- Emergency video calling capabilities (if applicable)
- EHR training
- Review any additional unique protocols of your facility
Share Contact Details
Give your locum tenens provider the names and roles of key staff so they know who is responsible for various tasks/needs.
Assuring the provider knows things like who to call for a consultation and other beneficial contact information can be invaluable information when they are caring for patients. In addition, share contact information for the next level of care facility, and other community names and contact information they might need, such as EMT staff, police, state troopers, behavioral health, etc.
You’ll also want to share information about who will be on call with the provider and review scheduling.
Do you have an IT department or person? If so, introducing them to your locum tenens can be beneficial.
Make note of this list of important contacts to share:
- Provide contact numbers for key personnel, including the chain of command – who do they call if there’s an emergency
- Next level of care facility contact information
- Community names and phone numbers – EMT, police, state troopers, behavioral health, etc.
- IT support specialist
Upcoming Office Plans
Don’t forget to include the locum provider in upcoming office plans. If your staff has potluck lunches, birthday celebrations, or you’re doing something special for an upcoming holiday or event (Superbowl party, Halloween costume contest, holiday gift exchange, etc.) make sure they know about it in advance…it’s no fun to be left out, and also awkward to be included if you’re not prepared to participate.
At the same time, locum providers may not be able to take part as fully in some events due to work or call schedules, lack of supplies (they may not be able to participate in gift exchanges or costume parties, for example), or personal preference. Be sure to acknowledge that invitations to clinic events are just that, with no pressure to attend.
Many of the communities we serve are vastly different than what our locum tenens healthcare providers are accustomed to. Many providers permanently live in urban or suburban areas, so taking an assignment somewhere like a Native American village can be a new experience.
Getting to experience new communities and locations is often why locum tenens enjoy these assignments, though. At WMS, we provide as much detail to the providers about the community as we can, but it’s not the same as them getting to the assignment and seeing it first-hand.
When giving your locum tenens a tour of the community, a few things that are helpful to include on the tour are:
- The location and business hours of the local market
- The location of any recreation centers or community center facilities
- Information about churches in the community
- Notify the providers about community safety. In rural communities, the local wildlife can be dangerous when hiking alone, for instance.
- Any specifics at the moment: approaching storms, a change in local transportation, an event that’s impacting the local community such as a celebration or funeral. Some communities and businesses may close for events, so sharing this information is valuable.
Some facilities we work with will pair a community member with a locum tenens=to help them to learn more about their surroundings and=the local culture. This can be invaluable for the locum tenens=to feel welcome and =adjust to their new assignment.
Beginning the Assignment
Adding a locum tenens to your healthcare facility can be beneficial for several reasons. Making sure they are prepared to successfully execute their assignment when they begin to work will make things smoother for the locum tenens, your staff, and your patients.
As the provider works through their assignment, it’s helpful to have your facility manager or staff contact check in with them to be sure they’re doing well both personally and professionally. WMS also checks in with providers and client contacts during assignments through surveys, personal emails, or texts.
A local manager may see a need or concern before WMS staff. We encourage our clients to communicate with WMS account executives and the provider on-site to ensure the best outcomes for everyone.
Ideally, the providers WMS sends on assignment will be a great fit for the facility and community. WMS often returns a provider to the same location, cementing an excellent working relationship between client and provider. This is the sweet spot for everyone when a provider and clinic staff are well acquainted and there are no surprises.
That said, even if a provider has been to your facility many times, there may be changes from one stay to the next. Shifts in staffing, management, equipment, call schedules, etc., still need to be communicated, if not before arrival, then at the beginning of the assignment.
Locum providers offer support in so many ways…taking part in the daily clinic schedule, the call schedule, and bridging staff vacancies when facilities are recruiting, or when permanent staff is out on leave. They’re a vital part of sustaining health care facilities in remote and small locations and deserve a warm and appreciative welcome.
Yes, they’re paid to be in your facility and may be very self-sufficient. But remember, they may be far from home, family, and everything familiar. Do your part to help them integrate into your environment and have a great experience. That’s the best way to ensure they’ll be open to returning when you have another need.
What have you done to create a warm welcome for your locum staff? Please share anything that your facility is doing that is unique! We’d love to pass on creative ideas to our clients, and we’re always looking for anything we can suggest to improve the locum experience for everyone involved!
If you’re interested in learning how Wilderness Medical Staffing can help with your staffing needs, contact us. We’re happy to answer any questions you have.