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Why Young Physicians Should Consider Locum Tenens: Try Before You Buy!

*This blog post was initially published on the Barton Blog.

When doctors complete their residency training, they are under a lot of pressure to land their first “real job” quickly. Student loan deferments end shortly after training, and whopping debt faces many of them. But choosing a job that is a good long-term fit can be difficult, and gaining a broader exposure to the wide variety of options is key to success. That’s why “try before you buy” can be an excellent strategy for young physicians.

Locum tenens agencies such as Barton Associates work with healthcare organizations and practice locations across the country to offer a variety of temporary assignments for physicians.

These agencies negotiate your salary and call schedule. They also arrange the logistics, covering the costs of travel and accommodations. Once the doctor and the facility agree to terms, the physician simply arrives on the required date(s) and takes on the responsibilities requested. It’s a hassle-free, minimal-commitment arrangement that pays an hourly or daily rate for work.

Locum providers are given the convenient option to receive direct deposits to their bank accounts at regular intervals. Physicians can travel as broadly as they like for assignments, and the agency credentialing team works to efficiently complete any needed paperwork for new licenses and hospital privileging.

I enjoyed “living la vida locum” for six years before I landed my dream job. That’s a long time to be living out of a suitcase, and I doubt that most of my peers would want to do it for that long of a stretch. But an amazing thing happened during those years: With each new hospital experience, I gained insight and knowledge about my specialty. By rubbing elbows and networking with a wide swath of patients and experts across the country, I became a sought-after consultant in my own right.

I experienced different ways of delivering healthcare — from critical access hospitals to bustling academic centers. I learned about best practices and creative solutions that administrators and clinical staff had discovered to improve care quality, given the limitations of Medicare rules and private insurance restrictions.

When I was hired as the Medical Director of Admissions at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington, I came armed with creative ideas and a wealth of experience to draw from. I was a highly seasoned physician who had been exposed to the widest variety of patient populations and practice styles. I knew all about the unique struggles, successes, and solutions of various rehab centers across America. I now leverage that experience to drive change at my institution, and I am virtually unfazed by new problems and challenges.

The career value of locum tenens work is extraordinary. Take the time to look around you at each assignment. Learn what works and what doesn’t work, and file it away for future reference.

Like a bumblebee cross-pollinating hospital or medical practice “flowers,” locum tenens providers have the potential to drive change like no one else. When you’ve seen it all, your insights become invaluable, and you gain the maturity to know when a full-time job is the right cultural fit. Choosing the right job, on your terms and in your time, is the key to finding happiness in healthcare.

The Changing Priorities Of A New Generation Of Physicians

Doctors are, famously, workaholics. That’s just the way it’s been forever, at least as far back as my memory goes. You work crazy hours in residency, you graduate and work like a dog to establish your practice or to become a partner in your practice, and then you live out your career working long hours because there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done. I remember, growing up in the ’80s, that my friends whose parents were doctors were latchkey kids whose dad (usually the dad, then) was never at home when we were hanging out in the rec room playing Atari.

Yeah, Atari. Look it up, kids.

Not much had changed by the time I went to medical school. There was recognition of the fact that burnout was an issue — that divorces, alcohol abuse and suicides were more common among physicians than in other professions. The unspoken implication was that being a doctor was difficult and stressful, which increased the risk of these consequences of an over-burdened professional life. These stresses were accepted as part of the turf, as a necessary part of “being a doctor.” It wasn’t optional, and indeed, most physician teachers that addressed the matter chose to sublimate it into a mark of nobility. Being a physician was a calling and a duty, and a physician must gladly subordinate his or her own happiness and well-being to the service of their flock.

But things have changed, or at least a slow shift is in progress. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

What Really Happens On A Night Shift At The Hospital

I wonder how many cups of coffee an average night nurse consumes during their shift. Look, there’s someone we can ask, although it looks like her caffeine buzz is wearing off. Notice the telltale chin to chest head tip that gives sleep deprived nurses away. She may look like she’s charting, but she really is in a twilight sleep.

Working nights isn’t for wimps. Neither is working holidays and weekends. You are always short of help, and BIG things seem to go wrong just as the day shift staff heads out the door. I always thought that I was just paranoid about working the off shifts, but Muhammad Saleem from RN Central sent me some information that validated my observations. I’ve posted their research results below. I’ve lived through a lot of these situations. I’ve seen seasoned nurses nod off at the desk at 3AM because they’ve been working their butts off, and I’ve worked with doctors who don’t answer pages promptly during evening hours and on weekends even though they are on call. I’ve also worked with new residences who are unable to write coherent orders until the third week of their rotation. Sometimes I’ve wondered why more things don’t go wrong in a hospital.

I think their information looks accurate. What do you think? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Nurse Ratched's Place*

Are Doctors Using Their iPads Too Much In The Work Setting?

Great blog piece in Forbes by Tom Gillis — VP of Cisco’s Security Technology Business Unit — on how hospital Chief Security Officers (CSOs) are having issues with managing physician use of mobile devices at work.  He had dinner with the CSOs of five major healthcare providers, who stated their biggest headache is how Doctors love their iPads and want to use them for work.

Gillis is in the business of enterprise security, and he gives an insider’s perspective on mobile device use in the hospital setting.  He writes about the fundamental shift in how physicians are consuming content.  Before the proliferation of mobile devices, hospitals had complete control of managing the “endpoint” — how the content was consumed.  This is no longer the case, and since these personal devices have created a new paradigm, IT teams are left playing catchup.

It was refreshing to hear Gillis talk about how the solution Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at iMedicalApps*

Being A Doctor Is A Lot Like Being A Parent: You Can’t Tap Out

The American College of Graduate Medical Education has enacted further restrictions on resident work hours.  No more than 80 hours per week of work for resident physicians, averaged over one month.  And no more than 16 hours of continuous work for first year residents (24 after that), which includes patient care, academic lectures, etc.

Whenever they do this sort of thing, everyone seems excited that it will make everyone safer.  After all, residents won’t be working as much, so they’ll be more rested and make much better decisions.  It’s all ‘win-win,’ as physicians in training and patients alike are safer.

I guess.  The problem of course is that after training, work hours aren’t restricted.  There is no set limit on the amount of work a physician can be expected to do, especially in small solo practices, or practices in busy community hospitals.

I understand the imperative to let them rest.  I understand that fatigue leads to mistakes.  I get it!  But does the ACGME get it? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

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