Every physician knows that the process of applying for medical staff membership and privileges can be tedious and time consuming. The forms and photocopies, that long list of yes/no questions, and pouring over the clinical privilege request sheet can take hours. The good news for locum tenens physicians is that, with a little organization on the front end, this process can be streamlined considerably. The best locum tenens agencies do everything they can to reduce paperwork for doctors who are busy traveling the country (and sometimes the world) to practice medicine.
While locum tenens agencies are not in a position to perform formal “credentialing,” any reputable firm will do a thorough credentials review based on the same standards as hospitals before presenting a physician to a practice location. Because they not only understand their clients’ quality standards but are also responsible for procuring or facilitating malpractice coverage for the physicians with whom they contract, staffing companies engage only well-trained and highly-qualified individuals.
Once you decide to contract with a locum tenens agency, you will be asked to submit your CV along with essential information such as license and DEA numbers and professional peer references. The agency will assess your submissions and, assuming everything checks out, you will then be asked to provide additional data that will allow staff to verify your education, training, and full practice history.
Providing comprehensive, current information to your locum tenens agency at the outset of the relationship works to your advantage because it saves you time in the long run. With a complete file in hand, agency staff can coordinate credentialing with each hospital in advance of your arrival. They will streamline the paperwork as much as possible; however, they cannot answer questions pertaining to such things as prior disciplinary action, or malpractice history. Nor can they complete the clinical privilege request form or sign the document—you are ultimately responsible for the information provided.
An agency may overnight an application, carefully flagged to indicate the sections you need to complete. Due to the nature of locum tenens practice (i.e., positions are often filled on short notice), a speedy turnaround of this paperwork is critical. Gone are the days when hospitals granted temporary privileges with just a few key documents on file. Today, medical institutions require rigorous credentialing before they allow physicians to care for patients. Once your application has been submitted, an agency staff member will continually follow-up with the hospital to make sure that the documents and verifications arrive.
Even though locum tenens staffing representatives will help with the paperwork, they need your involvement. Be sure to keep your licenses, DEA, and other recurring registrations current and send copies to each firm you contract with. Do not be surprised if you receive reminder notices about expiring licenses from the agencies you associate with frequently. Many have automated systems in place to help keep their locum tenens doctors organized.
Maintaining a chronological record of every place you practice including the name of the facility, exact dates (month, day, and year), address, contact person, and name of the malpractice carrier, is a huge help to staff when they are coordinating subsequent medical staff applications. Be sure to include even very short engagements. Because many locum tenens physicians contract with more than one firm, the only way Agency A will know that you were at a specific medical institution in Hawaii last May with Agency B is if you tell them.
Most facilities require references from professional colleagues you have worked with during the last 2 years. As you engage closely with physicians at different locations, ask permission to use them as references for upcoming opportunities. This way, you will always have current references and avoid annoying some of your peers with recurring requests.
The key to making sure the medical staff application process goes smoothly is organization. Keeping good records and staying in close communication with your locum tenens support team will help facilitate the paperwork process so that you can easily transition to your next opportunity.