Locum tenens doesn’t only benefit physicians, it can also improve healthcare facilities. Kelli Cameron, director of provider Recruitment and Retention for Mercyhealth in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, shares how using locum tenens — and working with CompHealth — has positively affected her organization. Here are four ways locum tenens benefits healthcare organizations by providing better care for more patients while also improving provider well-being.
1. Improve patient satisfaction
Locums physicians enable Mercyhealth to maintain continuity of services for patients and a balanced workload for their clinical teams. Although some organizations might find it challenging to work with providers who are only there for short periods, Kelli and Mercyhealth have found ways to play these shorter-term relationships to their advantage.
“We want to put the same effort into selecting and bringing in a locums physician as we would a full-time employed physician,” she says. “We want to make sure that it’s not disruptive to our patients’ care or to our team environment.”
CompHealth does a lot to vet physicians ahead of time and make sure that the candidates they present to Mercyhealth will be a good fit. Mercyhealth places a high value on team culture and wants the people they surround themselves with to make a positive impact. Kelli says that the contribution of locums to team happiness has a direct impact on patient satisfaction and the quality of patient care.
“Locums help ensure patient access to physicians,” says Kelli. “We’re able to provide the care that our patients need and give our staff the right support.”
2. Speed the opening of new service lines
Mercyhealth is a growing organization that’s committed to improving the services it offers to its patient communities. Ideally, everyone on the team would be hospital-employed, but Kelli says that locums can be a valuable bridge strategy when they want to expand their services.
“When we started an orthopedic surgery department, we used all locums to start that up while we hired full-time orthopedic surgeons,” she says. “When we are hiring locum tenens physicians to come in, we plan their orientation process diligently. We want a locum tenens physician who will become part of that team, whether that’s for a weekend, a month, six months, or however long that physician is here with us.”
As Mercyhealth has grown and added new service lines, locums are part of a coordinated strategy that includes direct hires and acquiring related local practices. Locum tenens providers go through the same onboarding process as permanent staff hires to ensure cohesion on the team.
They’ve even been able to hire some of their locums as permanent staff. “We love hiring physicians from locums to perm. It’s a great opportunity for not only us to test them out but for them to test us out,” says Kelli. “It’s been great because we know it’s going to be a happy marriage when we’ve had some time to date before we hire those physicians.”
3. Contribute to physician well-being
One of the more obvious advantages of locum tenens providers is continuity of coverage and care when permanent staff need time off. With rates of physician burnout increasing, locums give the Mercyhealth team more flexibility to take time off — for things like vacations, family leave, CME activities, or simply to decompress and unwind.
More than one-third of providers are currently seeking better work/life balance, according to a survey by CHG Healthcare. By bringing in locums physicians, it allows Mercyhealth’s physicians to take time off without sacrificing patient care.
For Kelli, she has peace of mind knowing that the locums providers they bring in have been carefully screened by CompHealth not only for their clinical skills but also for their fit within the organization.
4. Promote continuous improvement
Kelli says that when staffing gaps happen, systems like Mercyhealth can see a ripple effect throughout the entire team. “If we don’t have a physician working, that means we don’t have a nurse working, and it kind of all goes all the way down through the organization,” she says.
Kelli says that locum physicians are an integral part of how Mercyhealth provides care. “We always look for better efficiencies and how to make our system run smoother and faster and more conveniently for our patients. Locums are a key part of that,” she says.
One of the ways locum tenens benefits healthcare organizations is the fresh thinking and clinical perspective they can bring to the team, says Kelli. “We really enjoy the locums because they challenge us, they help us think about recruitment in a different way, and ultimately whether it’s a full-time physician or a locum physician, our team is there to serve our patients and that’s what we’re doing,” she says.
To find out how locum tenens can benefit your healthcare organization, give us a call at 800.453.3030.
This article was originally published in March 2018. It was updated on June 8, 2023.