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Super-secret insider tips for aspiring locums

Expert advice to make sure you’re starting your journey as a locum on the right foot

Now that you know what locuming is and whether it might be right for you, you might be ready to take the leap into the wider world of locum tenens. But what do you need to know before you start? What documents should you prepare, what questions should you ask, and what approach should you take when starting a new position? From contracts to billing to work hours, here are some exclusive insider tips on how locum physicians make it work.

Try it before you buy it.

Don’t accept a permanent position without trying out the medical facility first. One of the big advantages of a temporary locum position is that is gives you a unique opportunity to glean insight into a clinic’s workflow, the patient population it serves, and how well you mesh with the other doctors and staff. This can also protect you professionally: a disorganized practice is more likely to face medico-legal risks, and that’s definitely something you’ll want to avoid.

Become a master negotiator.

Always negotiate your rates and billings for complex care in advance—especially if your locum contract is for a longer period of time (like, say, covering a parental leave or sabbatical that lasts three months or more). Longer term locums should also consider overhead ceilings, term minimums, and other incentive fees—because all the related paperwork you do on your own time (insurance papers, etc.) should be compensated, too.

Find your flexibility.

Just because a job is posted as 9-to-5 Monday-to-Friday doesn’t mean they won’t be flexible when it comes to working around your schedule. Most clinics are open to partial coverage or variable hours, so don’t turn down an opportunity because it doesn’t align with your ideal schedule—and don’t be afraid to ask a clinic if they can accommodate your preferred working hours.

Stick to your style of practice.

Have a clear sense of what you’d like your workday to be like—how many patients you like booked every hour, how much time you need for standard procedures like paps and physicals, and even how you’d like the patient set up. You’ll be working at a lot of different places with a lot of different approaches, and the better you’re able to share with them your preferred manner of providing care, the quicker it will be for everyone to get on the same page. Remember, the clinic that hires you should respect your style of practice.

Know which pool you’re jumping into.

Make sure you know what billings pools are available to you. These can vary according to your location and speciality. For example, a hospital-based locum in British Columbia in which you provide obstetric coverage entitles you to bill a $2,100 quarterly fee to the “Maternity Care Network.” The best way to get a handle on the billing landscape is to talk to other locums and billing specialists in the region you’re practicing in.

Know where to draw the line.

It’s vital to have clarity around the process for patient follow-ups, recalls, and handovers. So draw up a standard one-page contract that summarizes your locum agreement and clearly states that all follow-up for patients who return after your locum engagement has ended – especially imaging and lab work – is the sole responsibility of the clinic. This will prevent you from being drawn back into consultations after you’ve moved on from a position (and help you avoid some of the messy legal issues that arise). You can take a look at this sample contract to get a sense of what you might want to create.