Being your own boss, managing less paperwork and traveling to new places are all benefits of being a locum tenens physician. It is a lifestyle that appeals to just the right type of provider—it isn’t for everyone—but for those who enjoy it, locums work brings a fresh approach to practicing medicine. Becoming a locums provider isn’t difficult, but you should be prepared to show lots of documentation related to your education, certifications, and qualifications before you take an assignment. Chances are you will be working with a locums recruiting agency and they will know exactly what paperwork is needed for what assignment, and what foundation you will need in order to practice safely and effectively.
Some people call the credentialing and licensing phase of the process painful. Thankfully, if you work with an agency, they will have staff to help you gather and complete the necessary paperwork—and there is a lot of it. If you are considering a job in another state, you’ll need a license to practice in that state. That means meeting all of their qualifications for licensure, showing proof of current continuing education and documentation of a successful education. There’s sure to be a fee for licensure, so ask your agency who will take care of that charge. Hopefully it isn’t you.
Next, you will have to be cleared by the hospital’s credentialing committee (if you will be working in a hospital) and scrutiny here may vary. Some facilities may ask for the basics of your background and pass you through. Others may want your mother’s blood type and a DNA sample first. I’m kidding—but they can delve deeply into your educational background, ask for original copies of transcripts from places you haven’t been to in decades, and require a long list of references.
Keep in mind that if you plan to travel regularly or take lots of short jobs, the paperwork process will be repeated over and over with each new location and your friends or colleagues you have listed as a reference could be nagged beyond measure. References are checked by the locums agency, the hospital who is considering hiring, the hospital committee and the state licensure board and every reference must be written or faxed. That’s a total of four responses for each of your references for every job you consider taking.
You may already know that locums jobs don’t offer any benefits or retirement and that you are responsible for withholding your own taxes. But most locums agencies do offer a few benefits including malpractice and liability insurance, but this can be limited. Some providers say that the amount and type of coverage offered by locums agencies is often insufficient and that you may need to purchase an additional tail policy. It isn’t a requirement, but it’s never a good idea to need it and then discover you’ve been under-insured. Make sure to negotiate these details (including who will be paying for the coverage) before taking an assignment.
By Rachel Ballard RNC, BSN
Rachel Ballard is a certified registered nurse and owner of the medical writing company iHealth Communications. iHealth teams with healthcare leaders to create written content that boosts revenue and builds relationships. Learn more about Rachel on Google+