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    Locum tenens physicians and recruiters: Making the relationship work


    (Photos: Getty Images/Image Source)
    A locum tenens career is about choices that suit you individually and professionally. There is freedom to make your practice work for you instead of the other way around. As satisfying as that independence may be, it is reassuring to know you have an ally who is looking out for your best interests: Your recruiter or staffing company representative can be a guide in traversing the locum tenens landscape.

    The relationship between locum tenens healthcare providers and their recruiters carries an innate value. But like any important connection in life, this association takes effort from both parties to turn it into a beneficial partnership. With that in mind, who better to offer relationship advice than a pair of experienced locum tenens professionals and a director of recruiting? Here, they speak out on a few key characteristics needed to forge successful recruiter/provider relations.


    The National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO), a standards-setting body, has established a code of ethics by which member companies must conduct business. The code's foundation is "to maximize the relationships between physicians, clients, and locum tenens companies through honesty, professionalism, and integrity." These qualities also are central to building a rapport with your staffing company representative.

    HONESTY. The value of this trait cannot be overstated. Without open, precise communication from both sides, the door is left open for misunderstandings and information gaps. From physicians and non-physician providers' point of view, having a recruiter be upfront about an opportunity means having the necessary information to make educated choices—so knowledge of the specialty goes along with that. Representatives should be able to explain all the specifics, from location and scheduling dates to patient demographics and procedures required.

    "It helps to have a recruiter who has at least a basic knowledge of what my specialty entails. I have had some recruiters who were not familiar with anesthesia-related terms, and that complicated matters," states Michelle Lewis, RN, BSN, MS, CRNA, a certified registered nurse anesthetist with 14 years' experience in the operating room and another 13 years' experience as a critical care nurse. She began her mobile career seven years ago, and this past year she accepted contracts primarily through Easter Medical Staffing, a locum tenens company based in Austin, Texas.

    "An understanding of a medical specialty, including knowing common acronyms and lingo used in the clinical environment, is important to effectively communicate with physicians," adds Brandon Spangler, director of recruiting for Staff Care, a locum tenens firm based in Irving, Texas.

    Then there are the logistics of an opportunity, such as the contract. While there can be standard terms from one contract to another, your recruiter should be equipped to answer any questions that may arise. "For example, physicians sometimes have questions about registering with multiple staffing companies. There is no exclusivity rule in the locum tenens industry, so physicians are free to sign with as many agencies as they like," Spangler says. "I would caution, however, to not align themselves with too many organizations because that can lead to confusion. There are contractual non-compete obligations regarding which company presents an opportunity first, and physicians do not always think about those aspects of the agreement."

    Of course, communication needs to be reciprocated. "Individuals should be open and honest about their personal circumstances and motivations behind choosing locum tenens. Knowing their reasons helps recruiters be more successful in matching them with opportunities," Spangler advises.

    John Milton, MD, FACEP, opted for a locum tenens path after a significant staffing shift at the hospital where he had been head of the emergency department for the better part of his 30-year career. "At that time, the hospital executives decided to contract with a private physicians' group to run the department, and I did not want to go that route. So instead of helping to staff the hospital like I had been doing, I found myself looking for a new practice environment," he explains.

    For more than a year, he has agreed to contracts almost exclusively presented by Weatherby Locums, a supplemental staffing company located in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "My recruiter asks me what dates I would like to work, and then he finds me an opportunity to fit those dates," Dr. Milton notes. "It has been interesting to experience different emergency departments."

    Beyond availability, providers should be forthcoming about their breadth of experiences and malpractice histories. "To me, one aspect of good recruiters is that they offer me opportunities within my skill level," Lewis says.

    "Physicians should expect tough questions in regard to their backgrounds because we vouch for them to our clients and we provide them with malpractice insurance for the work they do while on contract," Spangler adds.

    Indeed, physicians and non-physician providers must undergo a thorough credentialing process that includes verification of educational and professional experiences, including every locum tenens contract. Some staffing firms are structured with different departments to handle these functions specifically, but recruiters often can act as a go-between to make sure every base is covered.

    "There are different levels of involvement," Lewis cautions. "It is best not to assume all agencies are the same. Ask your recruiter who will be handling the contract and if there is a separate department for credentialing, licensing, travel, and housing."