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Is It Time to Add a Locum to Your Family Practice?

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We have been hearing a lot about the coming shortage of family medicine doctors anticipated to arrive somewhere within the next 10 to 15 years. Some private practice doctors are wondering whether the shortage has already arrived. Increased patient demand without a subsequent increase in labor has left the typical family medicine practice scrambling to meet the need.

It turns out that locums are becoming a more integral part of family medicine as doctors seek to fill the holes in their practices. Perhaps family practice locums will be the wave of the future to address the pending shortage yet to come. In the meantime, how would a family doctor in 2017 know that it is time to add a locum?

According to Fierce Healthcare, their five signs that it might be time to add a locum:

1. Physician Exhaustion

Every doctor goes through a period of burnout at some point in his or her career. It is normal. But family doctors who find themselves exhausted for long stretches of time should step back and ask whether they are working too hard or not. Exhaustion is never good for a doctor – neither for him/herself nor his/her patients.

2. Increased Job Dissatisfaction

Ask any doctor why he or she went into family medicine and the answer will probably have something to do with a desire to help families live healthier lives. Medicine is an altruistic profession when viewed from that lens. But no measure of altruism can combat the inevitable job dissatisfaction that results from being overworked and under too much pressure.

A family doctor who finds him or herself gradually more dissatisfied every day is a doctor who should consider adding a locum to help carry the load. Even a locum who works just a couple of days per week can do a lot to reduce stress in the office.

3. Poor Work-Life Balance

The work-life balance is as critical in medicine as any other profession. As much as doctors love to help people, they have to take a break from the office on a regular schedule. Working 10 hours a day and then being on call for the other 14 is just not doable. Any doctor suffering from an improper work-life balance needs a remedy. That remedy can be a locum family doctor.

4. Insufficient Time for Patients

We all know the nightmare that is scheduling patients in a health insurance environment that still pushes volume over quality. But if tight scheduling and short visits are still not enough to see all the doctor’s patients within a reasonable period, something needs to change. Otherwise, that doctor may start losing patients dissatisfied with long wait times. Again, just a couple of days per week from a locum can make all the difference.

5. Bad Attitude Toward Patients

Lastly, doctors are not any different than workers in any other sector in terms of how they view their ‘customers’. When a person is exhausted and worn out from his or her job, it’s easy to see the flaws in customers and use those flaws as an excuse to take out frustrations on them. Family doctors who find themselves increasingly impatient with their patients should ask themselves why. Doctors who find themselves developing bad attitudes need to start looking for help.

Whether the family doctor shortage is already here or not, family medicine locums could be the answer for private practices already stretched to their limits. If you are having trouble keeping things going in your practice, perhaps it’s time to consider bringing in a locum.