Type “locum tenens agency” into the search box on Google and you’ll find more than 100,000 website links. Okay, there are not actually that many companies in operation, but they would all like to help you find your next temporary engagement. So how do you choose the best staffing firms for you? Here are some tips that will help.
Talk to colleagues
If you are considering locum tenens for a week, a month, or for the rest of your career, your first step should be canvassing your professional network to find out who has experience, with which agencies, and in what kinds of practice settings. Ask what they know now that they wish they had known when they first began locum tenens practice.
Getting to know you
During the first phone call, you can get a feel for whether a recruiter is interested in knowing who you are and what you want. Expect him or her to speak with you for several minutes, not simply request your CV. The agency representative should find out why you are interested in doing locum tenens, the kinds of opportunities you are looking for, details about your training and experience, and, depending on your specialty, the procedures and patient volume with which you are comfortable. If a recruiter is not taking the time to get to know you at this level, he or she likely will not be successful in placing you in practice settings that are a good fit.
We have you covered
Be sure to find out if the company you are considering carries malpractice insurance that is “A” rated.
Dashing around the country—or the world—practicing medicine is not without its trials and tribulations. How efficient is the travel department at the agency you are considering? Will they do everything they can to make your life easier? How quickly are your phone calls and e-mails returned? You should be able to reach your recruiter (or at least someone from the firm) 24/7 in case you find yourself in an untenable or unsafe working environment or stranded in an airport without your luggage. When you call for help, someone should be there to answer.
You sent my CV where?
A good recruiter will not present your CV to any organization without running the opportunity by you first. Doing so is, at best, unprofessional and borders on being unethical. You should always be in the position to give a potential engagement thumbs up or thumbs down before the representative offers your name for consideration. The flip side of this is that a recruiter should not call you about a placement until he or she has a signed contract from the client in hand and is authorized to offer the engagement.
Your interest first.
While every company would probably like to have you working with them alone, that is probably not in your best interest. A good recruiter knows that he or she may not always have your dream assignment at the ready. Ideally, you will want to be registered with two or three agencies. If a recruiter asks for your undying loyalty, consider that a red flag.
Many fine companies are not members of the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations, but the 40 or so who are have agreed to abide by a code of ethics and operate according to agreed upon standards. NALTO members govern themselves with an internal arbitration process, benefit from continuing education provided by the organization, and keep up on the latest in healthcare by networking with their peers.
Work with a recruiter you trust.
In addition to evaluating a company based on business and practical matters, follow your intuition to select agencies you feel comfortable with. Florida-based radiologist Bhaskar Golla, MD, appreciates relationships that are built on trust, not just business. “I recommend the agency I work with because I trust it,” says Dr. Golla. “Most of my friends, we all go through the same company.”
These tips should help you get started as you begin evaluating locum tenens agencies. May your search result in wonderful new business relationships and exciting practice opportunities that you will remember for years to come.