Family matters

June 18, 2010

Locum tenens agencies have a wealth of experience in helping providers arrange their home lives and embrace technology to deepen, rather than diminish, their family ties.

Key Points

Has the prospect of being distant from your family kept you from venturing forth on your first locum tenens assignment? Are you concerned that you won't be able to return home for emergencies? Worried that your children may grow apart from you, one text message at a time?

If so, don't postpone your dream of practicing in a new location any longer. Locum tenens agencies have a wealth of experience in helping providers arrange their home lives and embrace technology to deepen, rather than diminish, their family ties. Read on to learn how recruiters prepare their clients to discuss their aspirations with family, lay the groundwork for their first departure, and reduce the effect of emergencies on their remote practice.

BEGIN WITH A FAMILY MEETING

Keep the length and duration of a potential contract in mind, both when broaching the topic and when starting your pre-trip preparation. "Heading out for a couple of weeks is different from heading out on a yearlong assignment in, say, Australia," Sween says. "International physicians are preparing months in advance. They have plenty of time to let their family and friends know they will be out of the country."

Robert Harrington Jr., MD, FHM, chief medical officer at Locum Leaders in Alpharetta, Georgia, and a locum tenens physician, suggests sharing as much information as possible once you've committed. "It's best to let your family know where you're working, your contact information, hours that you're working, and good and bad times to get in touch with you," he says.

And take particular care to explain to younger children why you need to leave home. "I think it needs to be portrayed in a positive light. It's a tough world out there right now, and people need to do what they need to do to stay gainfully employed," he says.

Be sure to account for upcoming family events, and share these dates with your recruiter. "Before we start scheduling, I always ask them to double-check with their home base for any conflicting things that may come up," says Kristine Hlavacka, senior consultant to the ob/gyn team at Weatherby Locums in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "If they say, 'Oh, I think my daughter is graduating in May,' go back, check with your wife, check with your daughter, see when those dates are, and we can work around them."

RECRUITING YOUR SPOUSE

It's important to work with a recruiting firm that understands how important it is to have strong communication with the spouse at home.

Cindy Hayes, a radiology consultant with Houston-based Whitaker Medical, says: "We provide a full itinerary that goes to the doctors with all of the information-hospital location, phone numbers-for them to give to their spouse."

Karen Belote, director of recruiting at Locum Leaders, says it's important to work with a recruiter that is flexible when it comes to family issues. "We'll have physicians whose spouses are going to have surgery or have chronic health conditions," and recruiters can help to ensure doctors will be home when they need to be.

Hlavacka of Weatherby Locums distributes her cell phone number along with the contract's orientation packet so families can reach her, the hospital, and Weatherby at all times. She has worked with spouses who manage doctors' scheduling, and she considers open communication vital for a strong relationship.