It can be tough when you first get started on what you consider a major life change. That is the way it is for many doctors and nurses when they first enter the locum tenens marketplace. There is so much to learn that it can be overwhelming at times. The good news is that many have gone before, successfully navigating the many unique aspects of working as a locum.
The key to thriving in the first 6 to 12 months as a locum can be described in one word: relax. Yes, you want to do your absolute best. You want to maximize your working opportunities and land the best possible contracts. But there is a lot to learn, and you will not learn it all overnight. Problems will arise, mistakes will be made, and life will not go as perfectly as you planned.
If you are new to locum tenens or considering getting into it, here are a few strategies to help you thrive in that first year:
Limit Your Distractions
We live in a world dominated by technology. Technology is good to a certain extent, but it can be a terrible distraction when you’re trying to concentrate on something important. New locums would do well to limit their distractions during the first 6 to 12 months.
Use things like social media and text messaging to communicate with staffing agencies and potential clients. Use technology to make connections. But do not spend so much time with your technology that you are unable to learn things of real value, make face-to-face connections, and even rest.
Ask a Lot of Questions
It is not uncommon for people to have questions they are afraid to ask. In the medical profession, asking questions can be especially difficult if you view doing so as a sign of weakness. But the old axiom is still true today: you’ll never learn if you don’t ask. New locums should never be afraid to ask any question, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be. If you don’t know something and you can’t find the answer on your own relatively quickly, ask somebody who does know.
Manage your Time
A lack of time management can be a schedule killer to the new locum tenens professional. So even if you are a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ kind of person, the first 6 to 12 months of locum work should be managed a bit better. Get an early start to your day; schedule what you plan to do that day; make time to make connections and research future assignments.
Keep an Open Mind
Locum tenens clinicians may struggle during the first few assignments because they’re having to come to terms with the fact that there is more than one way to do things. The most important tip in this regard is to keep an open mind. What you learned in med school and residency is subject to change with each new assignment taken.
Keeping an open mind prepares you to accept different kinds of people, different ways of doing things, and the many different work environments you’ll encounter as a locum. On the other hand, being too rigid could easily make your locum experience one of the worst of your life.
Your career as a locum may get off to a wonderful start. If it does, consider yourself fortunate. If not though, try to relax rather than getting frustrated and discouraged. There is a lot to take in during that first year. Just dig in and commit to working through the challenges. You will emerge on the other side much better off.