By Cheri Wiggins with contributions from FlexMedStaff
Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” We have all been there with a houseguest that stays too long or does not follow the “house rules.” Maybe it was a family member or friend; we all have been the host of someone that wore out their welcome. Like a houseguest, a locums practitioner can quickly wear out their welcome at a facility. As the host,facilities want practitioners who abide by their house rules and conform to their culture. Locums practitioners must recognize the differences in how facilities are run and how to manage interprofessional interactions. Let’s face it, we all want to be remembered as great guests and one who continually gets invited back.
This article highlights the keys to being a great houseguest as a locums practitioner. We provide tips for any houseguest staying with friends and family and how those items apply to locums practitioners.
Be nice, and always remember to say thank you. It seems obvious, but it can’t be said enough. Be nice! Facilities want you to treat their patients and staff with respect. No one cares if you are a world-renown surgeon if you are an A-hole. It is expected that houseguests are pleasant and courteous. Practitioners should be as well. Take the time throughout the day to thank the staff you work with. Showing appreciation for them will go a long way toward how they perceive you as a houseguest.
Know the house rules and gauge the culture. Like a great locums practitioner, a good houseguest must follow the house rules and conform to the culture. Not all facilities are the same. Take the time to communicate with in-house staff about the inner workings of the facility, so you know how to handle and treat patients. Some facilities are busy and high-intensity where everything needs to be done stat. On the other hand, some facilities are more laid back. Knowing and fitting into the culture can keep you around for a long-time. Speak with other clinicians in your specialty to gauge what should be done in different scenarios. If there are in-house staff in your specialty, communicate with them so that you don’t deviate from what is expected of you at the facility.
Clean up after yourself and make your bed. A good houseguest knows to leave the guest room and surroundings cleaner than when they arrived. Practitioners should do their best to clean up after themselves. Don’t leave behind trash for others to pick up. Clean up the lounge after you finish eating. Don’t leave garbage and crumbs at your computer. If you are a surgeon or proceduralist, help clean up after the procedure. Don’t leave everything for the nurses and cleaning services to clean up; they are not your mom.
Act like you are interested and enjoying yourself. When you are the host, you want to feel as if all the guests are enjoying themselves. It is the same for facility administrators. They want to know that the practitioners enjoy working at their facility and that they want to stick around. Put a smile on your face and laugh with others. Take the time to have conversations with staff that go beyond medicine. Try to spend time in the cafeteria and lounge to get to know other staff and colleagues. If the administrators can’t see how much you enjoy working for them, then let them know in an email or a sit-down conversation.
Know the shower schedule and keep to the itinerary. A good guest is ready on time for scheduled events and does not disrupt anyone’s morning routine. Don’t be that clinician that shows up late to everything. Be prompt! Inform staff and colleagues of your intent and when things will be taken care of. Don’t delay seeing consults, completing documentation, or speaking to patient families.
Offer to wash dishes and help out around the house. A locums practitioner can be a great houseguest if they are helpful to their staff and colleagues. Are you willing to pick up extra patients, consults, or shifts to help out the facility? You will be remembered for the way you help out others during your stay.
Know what to wear to dinner. Don’t be the oddball in the crowd! Dress and look appropriate at work. For men, that includes having your beard trimmed and being clean-shaven.
Leave a gift and offer to pay for a meal. Just like a good houseguest, offer to feed the host. Please show your appreciation for the staff and consider bringing in breakfast (i.e., donuts, bagels, coffee), taking them out for a meal, or baking them brownies or cake.
Be adaptable when the itinerary changes. A good houseguest must recognize that not everything will go as planned. Medical professionals are accustomed to dealing with frustrating items like delays or a lack of resources. Locums practitioners must be willing to roll with the punches. This also applies to the treatment of patients. You may be asked to treat patients in ways differently than you usually would. This is no big deal as long as you don’t detect any egregious acts of malpractice. Instead of altering the patient’s course of treatment, continue doing what has been done for the patient in the past until the primary practitioner can take them back.
Don’t create any additional drama for your host. As a houseguest, you don’t want to be found sneaking around, uncovering your host’s dirty business, or unilaterally changing the itinerary. A locums practitioner should behave in the same manner. Choose a life without drama and stay out of others’ personal lives. This involves keeping it professional with all staff and colleagues. Be careful of what you say and do. Your words and actions will be amplified as a locums practitioner.
Locums practitioners must be flexible and adapt to the culture at each facility. Each facility may care for patients differently. Try to flow with it as long as it does not endanger patients’ safety. Locums practitioners may aim to be memorable, but no one wants to be remembered as a bad houseguest. Take the time to consider the list of items above and how you can alter your practice and professional habits to be the best houseguest, so facilities invite you back.
***Cheri Wiggins is a physiatrist that enjoys covering inpatient rehabilitation units. She has experience in contracting directly and thru agencies for locums-type work. She is an advocate for practitioners to educate themselves about living the locums-life.