Every week, hundreds if not thousands of locum tenens physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants (PA) start new assignments. For most of them, it is a new facility in a new location that they know little about.
Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations provide little or no orientation for locum tenens providers. They expect the locum to arrive and start work immediately. No time is spent going over policies or procedures, let alone the various computer systems. This leads to frustrations on both sides of the equation. The locum is unprepared for certain situations and the facility can be dissatisfied with the provider’s performance.
If you consider that many physicians, dentists, PAs, and nurse practitioners who start permanent positions typically need three to six months before they are fully orientated to their new job and facility, it seems unrealistic to expect a locum tenens provider will be ready to go without some sort of orientation.
At Barton Associates, we recommend healthcare organizations create an organized system for onboarding a locum tenens provider to ensure a positive locum tenens experience for both the locum and the organization. The following guide will describe the basic requirements organizations can use to successfully onboard their locum tenens physicians, dentists, PAs, and nurse practitioners.
Before the provider starts
Before the locum tenens provider is scheduled to start, you should give your contact at Barton Associates a list of basic first day items, which we will share with the provider. The items should include the following:
- What time to arrive on their first day
- What to wear
- Where to park
- Where to enter the building
- Who to ask for upon arrival
- Copies of key policies and procedures that might be helpful for the provider to review ahead of time
- Any other necessary items
We also recommend alerting the existing staff that a new locum tenens provider is coming. This can be done via email and should contain the following information:
- The locum tenens provider’s name and credentials
- The locum tenens provider’s start and end dates
- The department he or she will be working in
- A brief bio of the locum tenens provider (optional)
- A photo of the locum tenens provider (optional)
The first day
Create a list of items to cover during the provider’s orientation. Items should include the following, which we will cover in more detail below:
- Introduction to facility liaison
- Tour of the facility
- Meet and greet with coworkers (including the person responsible for signing time sheets)
- Computer system orientation and training
- Medical records
- Billing and coding
- Safety and infection control
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. The complexity and size of your organization will dictate whether you need to cover other items. Be sure to make the list as detailed as possible
The length of the orientation will depend on the size of your organization and the complexity of your systems. Smaller, basic facilities may be able to complete an orientation in a few hours, while bigger organizations may need a day or more.
Be sure you give yourself plenty of time to go over all the items before the locum tenens provider sees his or her first patient. It’s better to err on the side of allotting more time than not enough. Depending on the length of your orientation, you may want to have the locum tenens practitioner come one day or even a few days ahead of time. A smooth transition will yield better results, and you will be glad you took the extra time.
Most locum tenens providers would rather come a few days early than rush to play catch up after the job starts. In fact, some locum tenens providers will even accept a reduced pay rate for orientation days.
Each department should assign a facility liaison that will be the “go to” person for any locum tenens providers working in the department. The facility liaison should be available to the locum tenens provider throughout the assignment to answer any questions regarding the organizations policies, procedures, and systems.
A facility tour is a great way to begin the orientation. The facility liaison should give the provider a very detailed tour of the facility, especially the office or department in which he or she will be working.
Show the locum tenens provider where everything is, including supplies, medication, equipment, forms, etc. Time spent on these things now is time saved later. The provider should also know to which pharmacies he or she should send prescriptions as well as local social service agencies, etc.
During the tour, the facility liaison should introduce the locum to the physicians, nurse practitioners, PAs, and other employees in the department. It would be wise to give the provider a list of phone numbers and a medical staff roster, preferably with photos. The liaison should ask the locum tenens provider if there are any other positions at the organization who he or she would like to meet.
Computer System/ Medical Records
One of the most important orientation items—arguably the most important—is training the provider on the computer system. This can make or break the locum tenens experience faster than anything else.
Without proper computer systems training, the provider can’t access the schedule, patient histories, or reports containing important information. It is very important to schedule a proper training session on the computer system.
At the conclusion of the computer training, the locum tenens provider should know how to access electronic health records, write prescriptions, write orders, and schedule patient. The locum tenens practitioner also needs to understand the requirements for completing and approving medical records as well as the time frame for completion.
Be sure to have the IT department set up the locum tenens practitioner with the necessary user names and passwords he or she will need to use the system in advance of his or her arrival. Also provide the locum tenens provider with contact information for IT professionals who can handle any issues with the computer system.
The provider should also be skilled in how to use the phone system. Even if they are only there a few days, they will get phone calls.
Billing and Coding
The locum tenens needs to understand how billing and coding works at your organization to ensure charges are properly captured. A list containing the commonly used codes in the department and documentation guidelines is a helpful tool.
Safety and infection control
You can never be too vigilant with safety and infection control. Most locum tenens providers will be familiar with the basics, but it’s always a good idea to review your organization’s policies to make sure everyone is on the same page.
An investment in success
While going through a proper orientation may seem like a lot of work for what could be a short locum tenens assignment, the return on investment is considerable. By providing locum tenens physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, and PAs with all the relevant information about your facility up front, you ensure they spend the majority of their time treating patients, not asking questions. After all, that’s what you brought them in to do in the first place.
A proper onboarding program also creates a welcoming and comfortable working environment that will allow each locum tenens provider to perform efficiently. What’s more, you will provide a positive first impression of your organization, which will make it more likely that locum tenens providers will return for another assignment next time you have a need. In which case, you won’t have to onboard them again!