Locum tenens physicians can find and arrange assignments independently or work through staffing agencies like Tiva Healthcare. Regardless of how a locum finds assignments though, the pesky issue of working out contractual details has to be dealt with. Contracts are the lifeblood of locum work inasmuch as locum doctors are independent contractors considered to be self-employed under IRS regulations.
Since every locum assignment comes with a contract, doctors need to familiarize themselves with how contract negotiations work. Included in those negotiations are four contract items every locum should care about. Those four items are discussed in further detail below.
1. Total Compensation
Negotiating total compensation would seem like a no-brainer for even a rookie locum. But it is only a no-brainer to a doctor who fully understands what total compensation means. In other words, total compensation is more than just hourly rate.
Doctors should absolutely negotiate an hourly rate that is competitive within their specialties. There are plenty of online resources for finding the necessary information. But what about overtime pay? What about being paid for time on call? Doctors who fail to include these two extra forms of compensation in contract negotiations could find themselves working extra hours for free.
2. Travel Arrangements
It is quite common for staffing agencies to cover the cost of travel and its associated arrangements. But that is not always the case. Everything related to travel, travel expenses, and reimbursement should be spelled out in a contract. Above all, doctors should avoid giving staffing agencies credit card or bank information that lets them make travel arrangements on a doctor’s behalf. Otherwise, those doctors may have to wait too long for reimbursement. They may even get stuck with the bill.
3. Malpractice Insurance
Malpractice insurance is now a standard benefit of locum work for most staffing agencies and healthcare facilities. However, there are two kinds of insurance: occurrence coverage and claims coverage. The former is the preferred insurance. Doctors offered claims coverage instead should insist on an additional tail policy that picks up where claims coverage leaves off.
4. Accommodation Standards
Like travel, staffing agencies and facilities are more frequently offering to provide local accommodations in order to incentivize doctors to accept assignments. Any such offer should be clearly spelled out in the contract so that there are no questions later on. Contracts should detail everything you expect in your accommodations, including a few things that you might be tempted to take for granted: cooking and kitchen availability, laundry facilities, private vs. shared accommodations, internet access, etc.
5. Breach of Contract
Lastly, locum doctors should never sign a contract unless it contains details of how breaches are addressed. The last thing a doctor needs is to find him or herself embroiled in extensive litigation after being accused of breach of contract or working with an agency that has not kept up its end of the deal.
Along the same lines, doctors should be wary of contracts that excessively favor staffing agencies or healthcare facilities in disputes between parties. Contracts should treat all parties fairly and equally so that disputes can be settled amicably.
Do Your Due Diligence
If you are new to the locum tenens world, do yourself a favor by doing your due diligence relating to contract negotiations. Take the time to research how contracts are typically structured. Educate yourself about how you can protect yourself through contract details. The more you know about contract negotiations, the better off you will be. Remember, both you and those you contract with have the same goal: protecting your individual best interests.