Four Key Practices for Locum Tenens Physicians to Bring to Every Assignment

As a locum tenens physician new to a hospital, you often don’t know the ins and outs of that hospital’s processes and procedures. In fact, you likely experience even more interruptions because you are navigating care in an unfamiliar setting. All of this distraction can cause your patient to feel you are not focusing on them.

What can you do to keep the focus on each patient throughout your shift? Here are four key practices that can improve the overall patient experience of care:

Tune in. Start listening intentionally.
Patients want to be heard, not only examined or diagnosed. It helps when you ask clarifying questions. The patient will be aware that their priorities are considered if the provider makes sure to ask what is important to the patient.

Check your body language.
It is best to match the patient’s eye level, if possible. Sit if the patient is in bed. Being eye-to-eye eliminates the “looking down” effect that can occur when you are standing at bedside. Sitting also shows your patient that you aren’t in a hurry to leave them.

Repeat back.
Another way to convey to your patient that your attention is on them is to repeat back what they said. Incorporating this technique helps both you and the patient confirm that the information shared was heard and understood correctly. By incorporating intentional listening with feedback, supportive body language, and eye contact, your patient will sense they have your full attention. But that’s not all.

I empathize with you.
How you communicate with your patient is important. However, without empathy, your communication may ring hollow.

Your patient is a fellow human going through a relatable human experience and range of emotions. A stay at the hospital is typically stressful and can bring on a rollercoaster of emotions.

Putting yourself in your patient’s place can help you relate better to the emotions of fear, loss and grief that your patient may be experiencing. Don’t miss an opportunity to acknowledge your understanding and meet your patient and their family where they are on their journey of dealing with an acute illness.

By incorporating these four key practices consistently, you can outweigh the impact of interruptions and distractions that come with providing care in a new environment as a locum tenens physician.

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