If you’ve spent much time handling HR or onboarding tasks, you’re probably familiar with the so-called “buddy system,” a technique that acclimates new personnel to the workplace by pairing them off with a willing established employee. Slightly demeaning name aside — few working professionals want to operate under a rule named after a safety system schools deploy on field trips — its efficacy in workplaces is well-documented: While training and direct explanation are great for explaining the high-level rules, putting a new employee in touch with someone that knows the ropes can help the newcomer learn hidden expectations, pick up best practices, and optimize their work to company standards.
On these grounds alone, it makes sense for healthcare facilities to implement some sort of “buddy” or “guide” system for their locum tenens hires. Though they’re only there on a temporary basis, assigning a friendly face to the locums you hire can help you get the most out of your short-term engagement. If you haven’t considered a buddy system for locums before, here are a few benefits that might make it worth your while:
1. Buddy Systems Help Locums Learn the Layout
Yes, maps and the like are essential for helping for a newcomer learning how to traverse your facility’s physical space. Beyond that, though, having a human to call for basic directions can be hugely helpful when navigating a labyrinthine healthcare location. At minimum, a locum should know the fastest way from their assigned parking spot to their workspace, key places they’ll need to access within the building, and any shortcuts that may make their lives easier; a buddy can provide all three.
2. They Help Resolve “Dumb” Questions
We all know the chestnut about there really being no dumb questions. Even so, there is anxiety about asking too many simple questions, particularly if the locum has things come up that didn’t occur to them during the usual onboarding process. Providing a buddy means granting a single point of contact for simple queries the locum may be reticent to ask otherwise, dispensing answers on one hand and contacts for people who do know on then other. Make sure a buddy’s available for quick calls, texts, and IMs — the locum you bring on will be grateful.
3. They Convey Unwritten Rules
No rulebook or code of conduct can relay every expectation placed on an employee. That’s especially true when it comes to things HR or management might not even know: invisible expectations that shape the way employees work and interact with one another. From refilling the coffee pot when you take the last cup to ensuring carts are cleaned and water pitchers are filled, every office is full of these, and a buddy is the perfect way to convey it.
4. They “Teach” the Neighborhood
Where’s the nearest convenience store to your facility? Does GPS tend to give bad directions getting around — telling employees to take the interstate when city roads are better, for instance? What about the best place to get bulgogi? Buddies know the area, and that means they have the info locums need to enjoy their temporary visit.
5. They Provide a Valuable Sense of Social Structure
From the tangible to the unquantifiable. Feeling like you have support in the workplace is critical, a fact that holds just the same for temporary employees. By finding people who are willing and indeed happy to take the buddy role, your facility gives locums the extra edge of comfort that can make working in an all-new place easier, more productive, and a lot more fun. Tip: Look for people with good verbal communication skills and a sunny disposition.
6. They Prevent Costly Errors
It’s often said that employee misunderstandings cost U.S. companies tens of billions of dollars per year. Whether that’s explicitly true or not, there’s little question that they do have a way of gunking up the works, often impacting productivity or inflicting unnecessary financial or time costs on the organization. The locum you choose will come sharp-eyed, highly trained, and totally competent, but the risk of simple misunderstanding turning into something bigger makes a buddy system beneficial for everyone.
7. They Provide Critical Context
For the final item on our list, let’s consider a bit of information that falls just outside standard training and unwritten rules: the context of the role the locum assumes. From problematic patients with personality quirks that don’t fit into patient notes to the previous physician’s “unorthodox” manner of stashing certain supplies, a buddy effectively serves as a professional gatepost here, providing an opening into the space instead of forcing the locum to shoehorn their way in. If you’ve ever worked in a position where the last employee’s “unique” way of doing things made acclimating hard, you know just how important context can be — and thus the value a buddy can provide.