Locum Tenens Staffing: A Great Tool for Hospital Disaster Preparedness

It’s a cliché, but in this case, all too true: disaster truly can strike at any moment.  

We all remember the Covid outbreak all too well. Natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes also can happen in an instant. 

Having a locum tenens staffing service “on speed dial” can be a real life-saver when these disasters happen. 

Develop a strong relationship with one or two locum staffing agencies before you need them

Working with one or two locum agencies for several months – or even years – before an emergency arises that requires replacing members of your healthcare team and/or hiring more healthcare pros to cover a huge increase in patient needs – means you and your staffing partner can mitigate a staffing crisis at the time you need healthcare pros the most. 

Make sure to give the staffing service with all the info it needs to move quickly when you need it to

This means giving it information such as the number of patients you see when disasters occur. What specialties do you tend to need? How acute has patient need been in past emergencies? Discuss with the service your plans to use them in emergencies and create a plan (or protocol) that both you and the service will use when needed. 

Think about the types of pros you’ll need in an emergency

Every emergency is – pretty much by definition – different from any other.  

Yet you may notice that certain kinds of disasters/emergencies/illnesses tend to come to your area at particular times of the year, when certain weather conditions pop up, or even if you’ve noticed one-time occurrences take place: a nearby hospital may close soon or a huge new housing development is opening in a few months and you expect a surge in new patients. 

Then think about the “typical” types of illnesses, injuries, etc. you’ve experienced in past emergencies and make a list of physicians and other healthcare pros you’ve needed at those times so that the service can start recruiting these types of healthcare workers. 

Talk to the service about how it can help you onboard locums quickly in an emergency

Saving time is critical during emergencies; you may not have time to spend ensuring locums are credentialed, onboard/oriented. Consider working your locum service and create onboarding protocols that will streamline this hiring process in emergencies. 

Write the use of locums into your facility’s preparedness plan

We recommend that you don’t “think” about using locums in your disaster plans: write their use into it. Doing so not only makes the hiring of locums a part of your disaster plan, it makes it an integral part of it, allowing staff to reach out to your locum service(s) as soon as they need to. 

Think about locums’ housing needs now

It’s natural that you’ll prepare for how you’ll use the locums when you need them. It’s naturally less so that you’ll think about where they will sleep/live when they’re off-duty. 

If the disaster you may face is an earthquake, flooding, hurricanes/tornadoes, many hotels/apartments may become unavailable. 

Consider setting aside more hotels/apartments/college dorms than you think you’ll need, just in case some of the planned-for housing options are damaged.  

Many of our clients ramp up their locum needs during flu season. Others know they need to be ready for hurricane or tornado “season.” They also know emergencies may crop up at any time and have discussed their “disaster” needs with us in detail. 

Learn more about how SUMO Staffing can help you during emergencies.