Understanding ‘locum tenens’ – Part 3

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What to expect as a locum tenens

There is no such thing as ‘lower expectations’ or a ‘lower standard of ethical care’. When you apply as a locum tenens physician, irrespective of your specialty, you will be expected to meet a long list of qualifying criteria. Some of the things you should have in place include:

 

  • A valid, active medical licence
  • Outstanding references from past employers, organisations and co-workers
  • Board certification where applicable
  • Relevant experience is advantageous but not always mandatory

 

Gap Medics students with hospital staff in Thailand When you send in your application for a locum tenens position, some of the things that all potential employers will try to determine are your flexibility, your ability to meld well with other cultures and how well you work with peers and other staff.  

Every establishment has its own orientation formalities. It is a good idea to find out everything you can before you report to your first day at work so that you are not caught unawares. Some facilities will put you directly in touch with the professional that you will be working with so you can get a better understanding of the job expectations and responsibilities at the outset. The professionals themselves have different ways of working. Some physicians may give you a green light after having you do a few tasks to assess your skills, whereas others may require you to take a specific assessment test or an English test. 

It’s not unusual for some locum professionals to take a few days or even a couple of weeks to get acclimatised with the new surroundings whereas others may find the transition much easier.

With international assignments, the dynamics are even more complex. Not only would you be walking into a completely unfamiliar practice or facility, but you would also be entering a completely unfamiliar healthcare system where the parameters may be completely different from what you are accustomed to. In some countries, you may find that even otherwise familiar brands and generic medicines will have names you have never heard of before. It can be challenging to take it all in, but for many physicians it is these challenges that act as a motivating factor, especially for those who are interested in international medicine and healthcare policies.

The key to not feeling overwhelmed when you join a new healthcare community is to be open to learning from everything around you. Instead of shying away from learning new procedures and protocols, take a genuine interest in knowing how and why things are done that way. That way, after your stint, you would have learnt something new. There are some specialties such as emergency medicine in which this is especially important. As every minute counts in emergency medicine, it is crucial to work towards developing a strong relationship with the other professionals you will be working with so you know how each other works and how you can work together to best benefit the patients. 

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