Top 7 Tips To Be Successful Locum Physician

Courtney Marie L.
Oct. 8, 2018
6-minute read

Working as a locum can be a great opportunity to gain experience in a variety of practices, with different systems and a wide range of patients. It can prove to be a great educational experience and offers a great deal of variety. That being said, it can sometimes feel isolating and confusing, so we’ve made a list of the top 7 tips to be a successful locum.

Each step will help contribute to your overall confidence and fulfilment as a locum. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to get more organized, adopting these habits will help make the most out of your locuming experience and maximize your potential.

1. Ask For A Patient Report or Handoff

Recent research suggests that nearly 70 percent of medical errors are due to miscommunication. This might seem like a fairly easy, or even obvious step, but unfortunately, it’s not always the case. Therefore, make sure you always ask for a patient report or handoff from the previous physician. It’s best if you can arrange a face-to-face report, but even a phone call, or an extremely detailed email, is better than nothing. Studies have even shown that a face-to-face handoff leads to a 30 percent decrease in error rate.

2. Know The System

Whenever you start at a new location make sure you ask what system they’re using beforehand and try to get all your IT ducks in a row (logins, passwords, etc.). There’s nothing worse than trying to learn how to navigate a new system when you have a full workload. Plus, who knows, you might have used that system before, making it that much easier to settle in and focus on your patients. If you’re not familiar with the system, asking about it beforehand will give you time to research it before starting.

3. Flexibility

When we say flexibility, not only do we mean availability, but also an eagerness and openness to try new things. Be open to different schedules, locations and positions. Some places might not always be what you hoped for, or expected, but they can still offer new learning opportunities. For example, in BC, if you work in a rural location, you can qualify to have a rural premium added to your billings. If you’re completely open to any experience and what it can offer, you’ll be a successful locum.

4. Balance

This next step can go a long way and will really help the transition phase for everyone involved, especially the patient. You need to find a balance between your practice style and the previous physician’s style. This is particularly important when dealing with complex cases. You can do this by carefully reading each patient chart and appreciating and acknowledging how the previous physician was treating them.

By evaluating and understanding the previous physician’s recommendations, diagnoses and treatments, you’ll not only be able to get a glimpse of their practice style but you’ll be able to care for and support the patient better since you’ll have an understanding of how their case has been managed. So, keep in mind that a successful locum will have the right amount of balance between their own style and that of the previous physician.

5.  Listen

Of course, make sure you listen to your patients and really acknowledge their concerns, particularly if you’re covering a GP whose patients are used to seeing them and who might have reservations in seeing you.

It’s also important to listen to the other physicians and everyone else around you. Remember that everyone there is already experienced; they know the office, systems and patients, all better than you do, so listen and ask questions if you need clarification on anything. When you’re in a new place, everything will take longer than usual, which might put you behind schedule or make you feel stressed, but this is when mistakes happen. When you’re feeling rushed, you’re not thinking or listening as carefully anymore. So, if you feel under pressure, take a step back, ask someone for help and really listen.

6.   Have Confidence

Trust your abilities. There’s not always a lot of support working as a locum, so you’ll need to rely on your experience, but also recognize what’s within your own competence. Don’t take on a role that is beyond your ability or feel pressure to take on an unmanageable amount of work. Just like any other job, be friendly, be polite and act professional. Remember to ask questions, be open-minded and that just by being there you’re helping. Don’t sweat the small stuff or take anything too personally, without a team to turn to, the ability to let things go, and simply go with the flow, will make each day feel more successful.

7. Make Sure Your Payment System Is Set Up 

One of the main components that is often neglected by locums is figuring out how they’ll get paid. This step is extremely important to becoming a successful locum and can really help maximize your earning potential. There are several options available to locums, but the most common ones are through an agency or by billing on your own (using your practitioner number or by incorporating). The latter two are best if you’re looking to maximise your earnings.

Here at Dr. Bill we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to make doctors’ lives better. Our app was created to make billing “on the go” easier by getting rid of paper notes & daysheets. We help locums daily through billing support and set-up, so if you’re interested in joining Dr. Bill or have a locum question, don’t hesitate to contact us or try it for free.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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Courtney Marie L
Writer and editor with a demonstrated history of working in the Canadian healthcare sector and the publishing industry. Skilled in writing, editing, proofreading, Spanish to English translation, and teaching English as a second language. Strong communications professional with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Political Science from the University of Manitoba.
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