Locum tenens (a Latin phrase meaning “to hold a place”) in the healthcare world refers to physicians who fill in for other physicians for a temporary period of time.
Like any professional, physicians need to take time off. However, temporary staffing for healthcare physicians can be more complicated than other industries. So let’s have a look at the Top 5 rules and credentialing concerns that healthcare facilities need to be aware of when it comes to locum tenens.
1. Intent matters
A locum tenens physician is intended to cover temporary staffing gaps. The most common of these are caused by illness, vacation, time off, sudden position vacancy, continuing education, or military duty.
2. There is a ticking clock
A locum tenens physician can fill a gap as short as one day or as long as 60 consecutive days. After 60 consecutive days, if the physician has not returned (or a contract to fill the position has not been offered) then a different locum tenens physician must be hired. The only exception to the 60 day limit is the military active duty physician, for which a locum tenens physician can be used for longer than 60 days.
3. Fill in the gap
Many healthcare organizations depend on a locum tenens physician right after a physician has left his or position while the organization is conducting a search for a permanent replacement. If an organization wants to offer the locum tenens physician the permanent position, they can. However, at that point, the locum tenens concept is not applicable.
4. Don’t be a rule breaker
You cannot use locum tenens to cover a physician who just works one shift per month. They might not work regular hours, but they are considered a regularly scheduled physician.
Other situations where locum tenens is not allowed: covering a physician’s off hours, using for a deceased physician, or during a physician’s credentialing process. If your organization uses locum tenens in any of these situations, then your facility could find itself liable and face stiff penalties for false claims or violations.
5. Credentialing is key
To protect yourself, you need to ensure that if you have a situation like any of the above, that you are taking responsibility for credentialing. Even if you’re using an appropriate locum tenens physician, you should look into the locum tenens credentialing process (most locum tenens service companies cover their physicians’ credentialing). According to an article by HealthLeadersMedia, “If locum tenens practitioners are credentialed differently than the rest of the medical staff, the attorneys [in a potential lawsuit] have the first foothold in the argument of negligent credentialing.” Don’t put yourself in this situation.
Locum tenens offers the necessary flexibility for facilities dealing with staffing changes. It covers many different assignment situations, but organizations need to play by specific rules.
Need a visual? We’ve got you covered with our handy one page infographic which outlines the locum tenens rules!
As always, if you have any questions or need to credential a physician, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us today!