Locum Tenens Housing Rural Alaska

Preparing Housing for Locum Tenens in Rural Areas

In the world of locum tenens, many factors affect the potential to attract providers to your facility. Pay, support staffing, location, housing, length of assignment, and general environment are all variables that providers ask about and consider (not necessarily in that order) before taking an assignment. Although these are all important components of an assignment, housing can be especially critical if the goal is to attract a provider who will be returning to cover future needs.

As a healthcare administrator or someone hosting locum tenens in your rural community, is housing ready for your new guest? In this article, we’ll share tips to ensure you have the information you need to prepare housing for locum tenens in your rural community.

Prepare Housing for your Locum Tenens

Inside log cabinProviding suitable, comfortable, and welcoming housing for your locum tenens providers is essential! When clients request coverage for their clinic or ER, one of the critical factors to establish is what housing options will be offered, and when a provider is identified who can work, to determine if they have specific housing requests. We make every effort to share accurate information with providers so they’re prepared for the housing as it is described to us, along with any specific requirements or prohibitions (for example, providers are usually unable to bring pets on assignment due to housing restrictions). Wilderness Medical Staffing will respect any restrictions organizations place on and we will communicate that with providers before they accept the assignment.

Long-Term vs. Short-Term Locum Tenens Housing

If your facility has regular locum needs, it would probably be advisable to rent or purchase housing that will be reliable and predictable. Some locations have multiple units, and this can open the potential for spouses/significant others, family, or even pets to join the provider. For example, one unit could be set up for an individual, and the other could be set up to accommodate a provider plus an additional family. (Many providers ask about bringing a spouse/significant other, especially during holidays or the summer. Also, providers will often want to bring children in summer.) Additionally, having at least two apartments or housing spaces gives you a spare option if one unit is having repairs or is in use.

If a locum need is short, perhaps just a few days, some facilities place the provider in a hotel. This can be a great solution for infrequent short locum needs, and removes the responsibility for maintenance, cleaning, or other landlord duties for the lodging.

If the coverage need is longer, or recurs frequently or regularly, a hotel is not optimal. Having a kitchen, washer/dryer, and a larger living space is ideal to offer providers who will be working longer periods of time. If a provider returns frequently to the same site, it can also be helpful if they can leave items at the housing for future use. (Perhaps a closet or storage area can be outfitted with a lock to accommodate this if desired.)

Meet Basic Housing Needs

Rustic shelving with dishesLikely, you already have basic housing needs all set up for locum tenens providers. If you’re new to hosting healthcare providers in your community, or if you want to have a simple checklist of a few items to check off when considering the housing you’ll offer providers, the list below is a good place to start. Before providers come to work at your facility, at a minimum, housing should be/have:

  • Clean and in good repair throughout the structure
  • Bed should have a clean mattress in good condition
  • Located in a reasonable proximity to the work site
  • Located in a safe area of the community
  • Doors and windows should lock properly
  • No mold or toxins present
  • The plumbing in the bathroom and kitchen working properly
  • Make sure the heat is working
  • Have the basics for comfortable living: furnishings, bedding, towels, cookware, utensils, dishes, coffee maker, sitting /living space, in addition to bedroom (if using a hotel for lodging, extended stay is a good choice for a wider range of amenities)
  • Washer/dryer available in housing, if at all possible (If washer/dryer are not on site, let the provider know where they can do laundry)
  • Have a TV that is in good condition, preferably one that can stream content
  • Connected to reliable Wi-Fi
  • Have appropriate parking options

Housing and furnishings make a big first impression and can greatly impact a provider’s view of your organization, and any desire to return in the future. Since securing providers in rural locations can be more difficult, housing can make a big difference! If housing is adequate or better, we rarely hear anything about it. But if assignment housing is below reasonable expectations and standards, it can be a frequent point of frustration and conversation, either as general feedback or reporting needs and requests for repair, etc. to our staff.

This doesn’t mean providers are difficult or unreasonably picky. It does mean that we’re sending people out to do (often) difficult jobs, away from their homes, and at a minimum, providers expect accommodation that will be comfortable and allow them to relax and rest after days spent seeing patients or nights on call. It’s difficult to do that if you can’t feel comfortable in the space where you’re eating and sleeping.

Even Better Locum Tenen Housing Amenities

If you want to go above and beyond, consider adding items that will make adjusting to the new setting easy for everyone. Some suggestions for information and items to provide:

  • Current Wi-Fi network name and password, prominently displayed
  • Clear instructions for operating appliances, including thermostat for heat
  • An extra set of sheets and towels
  • Additional paper products: toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, coffee filters that fit the coffee maker supplied to the unit
  • Basic seasoning items such as salt and pepper are helpful
  • Basic items for household needs, dish detergent, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, hand soap for bathroom
  • Basic cleaning equipment such as broom, mop, vacuum cleaner, and cleaning products
  • 24/7 contact information for emergencies (burst pipes, appliance failure, etc.)
  • Anything unique for contacting emergency services in your community
  • Community map
  • Calendar and information for community events

Basically, if you’re providing housing, think about any items you would need, particularly for the first night of staying in the space. Providers often arrive late in the day or evening and may be unable to pick up household supplies as soon as they arrive. While providers would generally be expected to provide their own food, it would be appropriate to expect that housing would have basics such as toilet paper, hand soap, etc., that would be regularly re-supplied from stay to stay.

Communication is Key to Comfort

Having someone on your staff who could be a point of contact for the provider for any needs they may have is a great idea. If a local staff member is the contact for arranging for repairs or regular maintenance, that would be preferable as compared to asking the provider to address those needs.

Whether maintenance and supplies are handled internally by the organization’s housekeeping staff, or these duties are outsourced, having someone designated to manage housing can save headaches, double booking, and other housing issues for everyone.

If you’ve had repairs made or updates added to your housing, check it out before a provider arrives to ensure everything is in order. You don’t want to discover a problem when you’re opening the door to show someone into their temporary home!

Your organization has variables that can’t be changed or managed internally: climate, location, size of community and amenities offered; and ease of travel to reach the location, to name a few. Housing in small communities is often hard to come by, but with foresight and planning, you can work toward creating a welcoming space, if you don’t have that already. Part of your reputation as a great place to accept assignments will rest on this very important factor, and housing is a variable that can be managed. Make sure this is working for you, not against you!

If you have questions after reading this, our operations and account executive staff would be happy to offer suggestions and insights!