Working as a locum tenens physician is similar to working as a staff physician in some ways, but remarkably different in others. Yet before you ever report for your first day on the job, one of the major differences you will have already been exposed to is the way in which you obtain work.
Obviously, the staff physician deals with a recruiting agency or directly with his or her future employer to go through the application, interview, and credentialing process. Locums do things differently. Being hired as a locum requires a completely different approach.
So, how do you get started as a locum tenens physician? Here is a basic rundown:
Research Staffing Agencies
Before you even think about making contact with staffing agencies, it is a good idea to do some research. Find out the names and contact information on the agencies best suited to your interests, specialty, and geographic location. Also, make sure to ask others you know who might already be actively involved with locums. Find out which agencies are the best. The National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO) is a good place to start.
Online discussion boards are another great resource because they allow you to find out what other medical professionals have to say. However, take such discussions with a grain of salt. The nature of the Internet suggests that negative comments usually far outpace positive ones due to the fact that satisfied individuals are less motivated to go online and make their opinions known.
Interview Your Agencies
The biggest difference between looking for work as a staff physician and signing on as a locum is the interview process. As a future locum tenens physician, you are interviewing staffing agencies as much as they are interviewing you. Your meetings with recruiters should be approached as such.
In the same way that the staffing agencies will want to know what you have to offer, you also need to know what they have to offer. It is a good idea to write your questions down ahead of time so that you’ll know exactly what to ask during each interview. Do not be afraid to ask for details either. The more you know about agencies and the people you will be working with, the better prepared you will be to make good decisions.
There is also no need to limit yourself to a single agency. Industry experts suggest you sign on with anywhere from three to five agencies. This gives you the greatest access to the types of assignments you are hoping to get.
Submit Your Paperwork
Once you have chosen the agencies you want to work with, the last step is to submit the required paperwork. You will need to provide a complete and accurate CV, copies of your certificates and licenses, and at least three professional references. The professional references should come from other physicians you have already worked with.
It is important to make sure you have all of this documentation put together before you begin the interview process. If an agency has to wait for you to get it together, you might be giving them the impression you are not ready to get to work. Be prepared to immediately hand them a package in the event your interview turns out exceptionally well.
Once you sign a contract with a given agency, you will be ready to start choosing assignments. That is when you will begin to learn what being a locum is all about. If you’ve chosen your agencies well, you will be on your way to a satisfying and rewarding career.