Locums CME is a bi-weekly roundup of recent news that matters to locum tenens providers. Stay in the loop on what’s new in the locums industry, and make the most of the locum tenens lifestyle with our fresh finds.
NYT: Chronic Understaffing Sparks Unionization Drive Among Allina Health System Providers
Doctors employed by the Allina Health System in Minnesota and Wisconsin have voted to unionize. The large nonprofit healthcare system employs more than 400 primary and urgent care providers at its 90-plus clinics. According to an article from the New York Times, the vote to unionize made this one of the largest group of unionized private-sector physicians in the US.
The Times also says that more than 150 nurse practitioners and physician assistants employed by these clinics will now be union members, represented by a local chapter of the Service Employees International Union.
Doctors say their decision to unionize was primarily driven by concerns over chronic understaffing in these facilities, which has led to high levels of burnout. They also say understaffing has led to compromised patient safety.
Dr. Cora Walsh, a family physician involved in the organizing campaign, told the Times doctors have had to deal with things like prescription refills, phone calls, or lab results, which someone else would handle at an adequately staffed clinic. Walsh added that she and her colleagues have to spend multiple hours each night on admin tasks, and she worries that these shortages can increase backlogs and mistakes.
Unionization among healthcare professionals is on the rise nationwide, reflecting growing frustrations within the industry. The NYT report says consolidation in healthcare over the past two decades has played a role in limiting physicians’ autonomy and decision-making power, contributing to their discontent.
And while the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated staffing issues, many of the facilities nationwide never fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels. This unionization of doctors has proceeded slowly, which could be because of the siloed nature of medicine. However, the unionization of this health system could signal a broader trend, the report says.
For more details on the impact of unionization in healthcare, check out the full article from The New York Times.
Your Locums Prescription
10 States With High Demand for Locums Providers
CompHealth recently wrote an article highlighting their top 10 locations in the US with the highest demand for locum tenens physicians in 2023, providing valuable insights for healthcare professionals looking for a new gig and a change of scenery.
Here’s a brief rundown of the areas CompHealth highlighted:
1. California: Despite its urban image, California has numerous rural areas facing a shortage of primary care physicians. The aging population further escalates the demand for doctors across specialties.
2. Wisconsin: Wisconsin is experiencing a demographic shift with a growing elderly population, leading to a need for more healthcare providers. Wisconsin also offers one of the highest physician salaries in the country.
3. Washington: While Washington State is witnessing growth in the number of physicians, it still faces significant shortages in several counties, prompting initiatives to improve access.
4. Indiana: Indiana struggles with healthcare access in underserved rural regions, but it offers competitive physician salaries.
5. Arizona: With a thriving healthcare industry, Arizona has a projected 36% employment growth in healthcare jobs. Still, it needs more primary care physicians, especially in rural areas.
6. New York: New York, including New York City, is grappling with an aging population and a shortage of physicians, particularly in specialties like cardiovascular, psychiatry, and surgery.
7. Illinois: Rural Illinois faces a severe physician shortage, making it an ideal destination for locum tenens physicians willing to work in underserved areas.
8. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania anticipates a shortage of primary care physicians by 2030, leading to increased demand for locum tenens in family medicine, urgent care, and emergency medicine.
9. Oregon: Oregon boasts accessible healthcare, a high physician-to-resident ratio, opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, and a unique culture in Portland.
10. Texas: Texas expects a significant physician shortage, particularly in internal and family medicine, due to its fast-growing population and aging demographics.
These states present promising opportunities for locum tenens providers to address healthcare gaps while enjoying various attractions and benefits unique to each region. Healthcare providers looking at locum tenens assignments in these states can find more details in the full article.
8 Ways to Practice Self-Care on Locums Assignments
More than half of the doctors surveyed in the 2023 Medscape US Physician Burnout & Depression Report said they experienced symptoms of burnout, and more than 60 percent said they had experienced this for over a year.
Healthcare organizations are doing more to make systemic changes to address this concern. All Star Healthcare Solutions wrote about several self-care strategies for locum tenens providers that often work away from home and often have to alter their habits to accommodate different environments and schedules.
The suggested self-care strategies All Star called out include:
- Zoning Out: Providers can intentionally transition from work to relaxation, taking advantage of the mental and physical space created by temporary assignments.
- Strengthening Connections: Building relationships with colleagues and creating a support network is significant. Plus, having someone (or multiple people) with whom you share good news or discuss concerns is a valuable mental health resource.
- Exercising Outside: Locum tenens professionals should focus on staying active by exploring outdoor activities unique to their assignment locations.
- Planning Informal Meetups: As you make friends on the job, take the initiative to arrange get-togethers with those friends.
- Clear Clutter: Streamline your preparation for assignments by converting documents into electronic files and avoid overpacking for long trips.
- Listening and Learning: Listen to a podcast, read a book, or spend your free time learning about something you care about and are passionate about.
- Planning Getaways: You may have already ended up in your dream locale, but whether that’s true or not, it can be invigorating to get out and experience a new environment on a day off.
- Recording Experiences: Journal, take photos, or create video diaries to archive your locums reflections.
For more from All Star Healthcare Solutions on enriching your locum tenens experiences, check out the full article.
Why Young Physicians Should Consider a Lucrative Career Start with Locum Tenens Work
Younger physicians looking to kickstart their careers can find numerous advantages in starting locum tenens work. Locums offer several compelling benefits. MPLT Healthcare recently highlighted reasons to consider launching a career with locum tenens work.
First, locum tenens allows physicians to reach their financial goals faster because locums gigs typically offer higher pay rates, which can help younger physicians pay off student loans and supplement their income.
Secondly, locum tenens work enhances a younger physician’s CV, especially for recent medical school graduates, by offering a wide range of professional opportunities, allowing them to gain valuable experience in various medical environments and patient populations. The exposure can open doors to permanent employment opportunities.
Locum tenens work also provides an opportunity to make a significant personal impact on patient care. Physicians in locum tenens can focus solely on patient care without all the administrative burdens of paperwork or staff management. In understaffed facilities, locums can play a crucial role in improving the quality of patient care, especially in critical situations.
So, for any younger physicians seeking a fulfilling and flexible career path, locum tenens work can be a promising choice.
Physician Wellness Retreat
Generative AI Helps Doctors Be Present And Improve Healthcare Experience
In an opinion article from KevinMD, Dr. Shiv Rao, a cardiologist and physician executive, discusses the challenges healthcare professionals face when balancing high-quality patient care with administrative tasks like note-taking on electronic health records.
Dr. Rao stresses the importance of being fully present with patients but highlights the common dilemma of diverting attention to a computer screen for note-taking during appointments. He says this can result in distracted doctoring and increased cognitive burden.
Dr. Rao talks about Generative AI as a solution to these challenges. He says Generative AI has the potential to transform healthcare by creating clinical progress notes based on conversations with patients. It can assist with billing and regulatory requirements and provide informative patient instructions.
He says from his own experience that Generative AI has streamlined the note-taking process and allowed him to create a more seamless interaction with patients. Generative AI has the potential to automate administrative tasks and enhance the physician-patient connection so healthcare professionals are more present and less distracted during patient interactions. Ultimately, it can bridge the gap between clinicians and their patients and create a more meaningful and efficient healthcare experience.
Read Dr. Rao’s complete account here and explore how Generative AI can reshape the healthcare landscape.
Poll: PAs Feel More Burned Out Today Than During Height of COVID-19 Pandemic
A recent study published in BMJ reveals a significant rise in healthcare visits with advanced practice providers (APPs), including nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs), accounting for a quarter of all visits from January 2013 to December 2019. However, the study also found that more APPs are experiencing burnout than ever before.
The report shows the increase in visits is partly attributed to cost savings, with PA patients incurring 5% lower costs and NP patients 6% lower costs compared to physician care. Additionally, there has been a notable increase in productivity, with PAs often seeing more patients per hour than emergency room physicians in certain settings.
However, a concerning trend emerged from a recent poll on APP burnout from Medscape. The Physician Assistant Burnout & Depression Report indicated that:
- 60% of PAs polled reported experiencing burnout
- 29% also dealt with depression
- 16% contemplated leaving the medical field due to severe burnout and
- 52% feel more burned out now than during the pandemic
The primary contributors to burnout include excessive bureaucratic tasks (57%), a lack of respect (43%), insufficient salary (41%), and long working hours (37%).
The report also highlights the impact of depression on patient care, with PAs reporting increased frustration and decreased motivation for meticulous record-keeping.
For the full article and in-depth insights into APPs’ challenges, check out WorkersCompensation.com.
Clinicians Express Concerns Over Insufficient Progress on Staffing Issues
In a recent article from Becker’s Hospital Review, clinicians voiced their growing concerns about the slow progress in addressing critical staffing issues within the healthcare industry.
Clinicians are becoming increasingly frustrated by the persistent understaffing issues, exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. While healthcare organizations focus on wellness initiatives and nurse residency programs, 48 percent of clinicians are “not at all” hopeful about the progress made regarding staffing issues.
These clinicians claim that the shortages of nurses, physicians, and other critical staff members strain the current healthcare workforce and jeopardize patient safety and satisfaction.
Despite their best efforts, HCOs struggle to close the staffing gaps effectively. This situation highlights the pressing need for healthcare leaders to come together with solutions to address these challenges.
For more on these concerns expressed by clinicians and the ongoing staffing issues in healthcare, read the full article on Becker’s Hospital Review.
6 Key Considerations for Physicians in Hospital Employment Contracts
Physicians interested in hospital employment need to consider employment contracts carefully — these contracts can change the course of their careers, according to the American Medical Association (AMA). According to Elizabeth Snelson, President of Legal Counsel for the Medical Staff, hospital employment contracts wield significant influence over a physician’s career trajectory.
In the American Medical Association’s”Making Rounds” podcast, AMA covered these six essential considerations for physicians contemplating employment contracts:
1. Understanding Obligations: Physicians should insist on comprehensive job descriptions that detail the medical practice, weekly hours, availability, on-call commitments, and other duties.
2. Specific Compensation: Thoroughly comprehend the compensation structure, including fixed rates, performance-based pay, and the median salary range for the position.
3. Benefits Utilization: Know the benefits included in the contract and the process for accessing them.
4. Written Terms: It’s crucial to have all terms of employment documented in writing to minimize misunderstandings and errors.
5. Consult Legal Expertise: Consider hiring a lawyer to review the contract, ensuring a complete understanding of the terms and avoiding long-term commitments with unforeseen consequences.
6. Physician Union Membership: Employed nonsupervisory physicians can benefit from the protections of the National Labor Relations Act and exemptions from antitrust laws when engaging in concerted action regarding employment conditions.
These insights from the AMA serve as a valuable guide for locum tenens providers navigating the complex landscape of employment contracts. Locumpedia has also highlighted what to consider when signing a contract in our No-BS Guide To Locum Tenens.
Bridging the Gap: Addressing Physician-Administrator Tensions to Combat Burnout
At times, physicians might feel they don’t have complete support from their administrators, and on the flip side, admins might feel like physicians don’t truly understand the struggle of those working in the corner offices. The longstanding tensions between healthcare administrators and physicians emphasize the need to bridge the gap to reduce physician burnout. The divide often stems from a lack of understanding between the two groups regarding their challenges and responsibilities.
In an article from the American Medical Association (AMA), the association works to address this issue by bridging the gap between the two with its “AMA STEPS Forward Wellness-Centered Leadership Playbook.”
The playbook aims to foster trust and collaboration between physicians and administrators by offering them five critical strategies for building trust between physicians and administrators, including:
- Transparent communication channels
- Opportunities for mutual learning
- Shared core values
- Personal storytelling, and
- A “trust challenge” to share best practices
The AMA then provided four guiding questions for administrators to initiate conversations to build trust.
The article also highlights the significance of effective communication strategies in promoting physician well-being, saying how important it is to identify communication gaps, raise awareness of mental health resources, and address your employees’ information needs to improve communication on an organizational level.