Burnout, bad schedules, inflexible time off, unfulfilling work, inadequate pay. These are just some of the many reasons why medical professionals across the country are flocking to the locum tenens way of life. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare companies are increasingly dependent on temporary staffing too. Maybe you are one of those medical providers who decided it’s time to try something new. But where do you start? In this article, we’ll lay out some important factors to consider so you can choose the right locum tenens company for your career.
The Importance of a Trusted Locum Tenens Staffing Agency
The locum tenens industry in America, already saturated with countless agencies, is growing faster than ever. At the time this blog is being written, there are over 200 locum tenens staffing firms in the US. The industry-wide expectation is that number will only increase. With so many locum tenens agencies to choose from, how do you know you’re working with the right one? Locum work for most providers is a leap into the unknown, not without its pitfalls. The right agency that guides you through that unknown territory will make the difference between success or failure on your first assignment.
The value a locum tenens company offers is to connect a medical provider with a facility that needs staff. The value added to the facility is obvious, but the value locum tenens companies offer to providers is equally important. Medical providers should benefit in every way from the locum tenens company they work with. Higher pay, help navigating licensure and credentialing, removing stress from the travel and lodging logistics, and preparation for work in the community are just a few of the great benefits the right locums company will bring to your daily work. The right locum tenens company will make your life easier, your bank account larger, and help you find fulfilling work that you love.
In this article, we will lay out some important factors to consider so you can find the right locums company.
How to Find the Best Locum Tenens Staffing Agency
Start Your Research Online
The first step in finding the right locums company is researching well! Anyone can open their search engine and scroll through endless pages of options; that is where most providers start! As you do research online, watch for these details on the locum tenens company’s website:
- The agency should be a member of NALTO (National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations). This is the association that has enforced strong standards and ethics in the locum tenens industry.
- They should have a clear and current website that is easy to navigate.
- It should be easy to get a hold of a human representative from the company. Many locums companies utilize a chat feature that allows you to ask quick questions without having to pick up a telephone. If you do call, you should be speaking with a knowledgeable recruiter within seconds.
- You should be able to easily find transparent job descriptions with clear pay and compensation details on their job board.
Understand the Staffing Agency’s Niche
Another important detail when researching different locums companies is their staffing model. Does this company work in a niche part of the healthcare industry or staff everywhere? If you’re looking at a smaller agency, are they based in a specific region? If your experience is in a specialty, or if you are hoping to work in a specific state or region, you may want to find a locums company that shares your niche. Including keywords in your online search should help narrow down the right companies.
Ask Your Peers for Referrals
We have found the most reliable way for providers to find the right agency (and for agencies to find the right providers) is through old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Ask your friends and colleagues who have tried locums what agencies they worked with and how that experience was. If your current employer utilizes staffing agencies, pay attention to the kinds of providers coming in from each agency. The only way to know how a company adds value down to its last mile of service is to talk with those who have worked with the agency before. Most of us prefer to find a realtor, mechanic, or lawyer through referrals from people we trust. A locums agency is no different!
Your Customer Service Experience Should be Top Notch as a Locum Tenens
When interacting with employees of a staffing agency, pay attention to how you are treated. Do you have a dedicated recruiter or staffing contact who will always respond, or do you find yourself being called by a different person every time they reach out? You shouldn’t ever feel like you’re just a number. If your interests and needs aren’t a priority in this early stage of contact, chances are they won’t be when you are on the job either. Your contacts should respond to emails within a business day and call you back in a timely manner if your call goes to their voicemail.
As you move through the process of licensure, onboarding, credentialing, and eventually travel, you should have a seamless experience with the agency walking with you every step of the way. You should never be confused about what comes next. A good recruiter will have decisive advice, well-explained so you’re not led astray.
A common example anyone seasoned in locums work will relate with is state licensure. Different state licensing boards vary widely with license-application processing times. For some states, you will be licensed to practice medicine within a couple of weeks of applying. Others can take upwards of 4 months to grant a license. This is an important detail for anyone hoping to take locums work in a new state soon! Any recruiter worth their salt will be honest and realistic with you. If you’re hoping to land a job coming up in 2 months, but you won’t get your license for 3-4 months, your recruiter will tell you that. If your recruiter is truly putting your interests first, they will share hard truths with you.
Make Sure Your Staffing Agency is Knowledgeable and Transparent
A solid locum tenens agency will be very knowledgeable about the community and facility for every location they staff. They will be able to answer any questions you have about the responsibilities, staffing mix, patient volume, or equipment at any site. Especially in rural or remote areas, you need a locums company with recruiters who know what is needed to thrive in austere environments.
If you find yourself asking specific questions and getting vague answers, that could be a sign your agency doesn’t fully know what situation they are getting you into. When it comes to placements in new locations, every locum tenens provider deserves to know exactly what situation they are getting into.
Unfortunately, the incentive structure in some agencies encourages their team staffing department to do whatever it takes to fill a job even if that means placing providers in clinical settings that don’t match their experience. Especially in remote areas, that mismatch could spell disaster for the client, the provider, and their patients. You want a recruiter who clearly explains to you where you’re going, what you will be doing, who you will have as support staff, and how you will be equipped so you can show up to your first day on assignment confidently.
Understand the Locum Tenens Agency’s Pay and Logistics
Some locum tenens agencies hire their providers on as employees, but most work with medical providers as independent contractors. You will want to research the tax implications of moving to a 1099-contracting income source before moving to locum work in general. Compensation should be transparent and appropriate to the work. Most agencies will include pay in job posts so you see even before applying what you can expect to earn. If you are an independent contractor, there will be no taxes or other withholdings taken from your pay.
In addition, to pay, be sure to study the locum agency’s malpractice insurance coverage. Any questions you have about malpractice insurance should be readily answered by your recruiter.
You will also want to confirm who is paying for your travel to and from the assignment. In addition, your housing and ground transportation while on assignment should be arranged prior to the assignment, typically by the staffing agency that you’re working with. If you have any questions about the housing arrangements for a specific assignment, be sure to ask! The right locum agency will be knowledgeable about the housing and travel arrangements and make sure they fit your needs.
Summary and Conclusion
The first steps into locums work can be daunting! The locum life is often one of increased personal responsibility, but increased freedom compared to an employee’s daily grind. To make that transition, you need the right locum tenens company to support you. We discussed four important factors to consider summarized below:
Reputation. You need to find a locums company that is respected and successful. We provided some details to consider when reviewing the company’s website and emphasized the value of word-of-mouth when learning about a locums company.
Service. You should be treated well, and your questions should be answered clearly and quickly. If you feel like you’re just a number, you need to find a new locums company.
Expertise. No matter the size of the company you’re working with, your agent should be an expert in their domain. The right recruiter will be knowledgeable about the community, facility, and position that you are applying for. Any questions you have about the smallest logistical step or piece of documentation will be answered definitively. If your recruiter doesn’t have a quick answer, they should be able to find one for you.
Pay and Logistics. Make sure you know if you are going to be a W2 employee or a 1099 independent contractor. Pay should be transparent and appropriate to the setting. Malpractice insurance should be sufficient for your needs. Travel, housing, and ground transportation should be arranged and paid for by the locum tenens company.
As a locum tenens provider, your choice of staffing agency is one of the most important business decisions there is to make. If you find a locums company that surpasses your expectations in all four factors, you found the right one!