There’s a lot of information out there about the advantages of locums for healthcare providers, but behind every provider success story is a client facility with a need for coverage in that specialty. Kelli Cameron, Director of Provider Recruitment and Retention for Mercyhealth in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, gave us valuable insights on how the locum tenens process looks from the recruiter’s point of view. Here’s a quick summary of four locum tenens benefits for provider recruiters in healthcare facilities.
1. Improves patient satisfaction
Locums 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. We want to be selective, we want to make sure that it’s not disruptive to our patients’ care, or to our team environment. Locums help ensure patient access to physicians. We’re able to provide the care that our patients need, and give our staff the right support.”
CompHealth does a lot to vet physicians ahead of time and make sure that the candidates that they present to 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.
2. Speeds the opening of new service lines
Mercyhealth is a dynamic, growing organization that’s committed to improving the services they offer to their patient communities in Wisconsin and Illinois. Ideally, they want everyone on the team, from facilities to food service to clinical staff, to be hospital employed, but Kelli says that locums can be 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. 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 or for a week or a month or six months or however long that physicians here with us.”
As Mercyhealth has grown and added new service lines, locums is 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. Kelli says that being able to hire some of their locums as permanent staff has been key to furthering Mercyhealth’s mission – a passion of making lives better.
“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. 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. It’s a good understanding of expectations. They get an understanding of our culture.”
3. Covers gaps for time off
One of the more obvious advantages of access to locum tenens providers is continuity of coverage and care when permanent staff need time off. Locums give the Mercyhealth team more resilience for things like vacations, family leave, or CME activities. For Kelli, the important thing is knowing that the locums providers they bring in have been carefully screened by CompHealth not only for their clinical skill, but also for their fit with the organization.
“We’re able to develop those relationships with CompHealth and they help us do our jobs in recruitment more efficiently. One of the things that CompHealth does, above and beyond all other staffing agencies is developing a relationship with us as an organization. They take the time to get to know who we are, and I also know who to call, who to email, who to text as soon as we have a need or if something has not gone as planned.”
Again, Mercyhealth uses the same orientation process for both locums and employed providers. The locums orientation is a bit shorter, but providers still get a chance to meet with the key people they’ll be working with. They get a tour of the facility, get their name badge, and the permanent staff is notified of their arrival ahead of time. Kelli says they believe in preparing a welcoming environment and making sure that locums have EPIC access, and the tools they’re going to need to be successful.
4. Promotes 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. So the locum physicians are an integral part of how we provide 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 life without locums would be interesting, and that there would be a noticeable impact on Mercyhealth’s efficiency and performance. The ability to make staffing adjustments through locum tenens helps Kelli to provide more stability in patient care, and to the level of support that Mercyhealth can provide for their permanent staff. She says one of the big advantages is the fresh thinking and clinical perspective that locums can bring to the team.
“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. CompHealth helps me do my job because their presentation process is very clear. They understand our expectations and take the time upfront to know what we need.”