Ways to Ensure Physician Coverage for Your Facility
Ensuring adequate physician coverage for your healthcare facility can be a challenge. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians took vacations, sick days and maternity or paternity leave. Given the intensity of their jobs and the importance of family, that’s understandable. Taking time off is essential for avoiding burnout and exhaustion. However, you might have found yourself short-staffed.
Now, everything is much more complicated. The pandemic means that your physicians may have extended absences while ill, be quarantining or waiting for test results to come back. These absences are unavoidable given how vital it is to protect your patients’ and other employees’ health. So, there is a good chance that you will have a hard time providing the best possible care with a limited staff of physicians. Fortunately, there are ways to provide physician coverage for your facility.
Why fill vacancies?
While gaps in physician coverage at your facility will likely occur, that doesn’t mean you can’t fill the vacancies. In fact, you should always fill them whenever possible. Without full physician coverage, the quality of care your patients receive may decline as the physicians on shift hurry to see as many patients as possible.
If your physicians do not rush, they may find wait times increasing, and some patients being turned away without the care they need because there is not enough time for everyone to be seen.
When you do not fill vacancies, your physicians are left with several difficult moral dilemmas. Taking time off might be necessary for their own health and well-being, but they are forced to balance those concerns with helping patients. The physicians who find themselves stretched thin while a colleague is out are forced to choose between the quantity and quality of care they provide.
Physicians are only human, and the job they do is difficult enough as it is. Ensuring that your employees have breathing room by filling gaps in physician coverage is one of the best steps you can take.
Use existing staff
One option for filling gaps in physician coverage is to use existing staff. In the short-term, this is the simplest option. Your existing team already knows the facility and patients, so the learning curve is minimal. However, this option has serious drawbacks. You’re not solving any of the issues facing your physicians by doing this; you’re just shifting the burden.
In a study that came out before COVID-19 established a foothold in the United States, 42 percent of physicians reported feeling burnt out. Detachment, cynicism, exhaustion and lacking a sense of personal achievement are all associated with burnout.
It’s likely that far more physicians are experiencing burnout after a year of combating a pandemic, which makes it even more crucial to take care of your employees rather than piling more work on their plates.
Share physician coverage with another facility
Sharing physicians with another facility is another option for filling gaps in physician coverage. It has all of the same drawbacks of using existing staff, just on a slightly broader, more complex scale. The pool of physicians you’re drawing from is larger, but likely not to the extent that you won’t increase burnout among the staff of both your facility and the one you’re partnering with.
The physicians you bring in from another facility also face the challenge of learning their way around your policies and procedures. They also have to familiarize themselves with your patients. While they’ll learn everything they need to as the partnership continues, doing so is an unnecessary extra stressor.
Use locum tenens providers
The best option for you, your facility and your physicians is to use a locum tenens provider. Locum tenens providers work with healthcare staffing agencies that provide substitute healthcare workers to facilities that need them.
Because you’re drawing from a vast network of workers, burnout is less of a concern for your employees and those of the locum tenens provider. Substitute physicians are also used to walking into new facilities and interacting with new patients, so that’s less of a stressor for them than it might be for a physician from a partner facility.
Physicians who work for a locum tenens provider are also used to odd scheduling, and they tend to be flexible to meet the needs of your healthcare facility.
Why you should plan for physician coverage
If possible, it’s best to plan ahead when you know you’re going to need to fill gaps in your physician coverage. Doing so can help you ensure a seamless transition between one physician and another, which will reduce stress for both your employees and your patients. In an unpredictable environment, anything you can do to ease stress and increase organization counts.
If you’re facing staffing shortages or gaps in your physician coverage due to the COVID-19 pandemic or any other reason, contact us today.