A lot has changed over the past three years in regards to getting physicians credentialed and ready for locum tenens assignments. Applications are longer, medical staff offices are understaffed and require more time to process applications, and the types of documents required have changed significantly.
In the past the focus was on the written word and the ability of your peers to express their ideas and opinions about their professional interaction with you in a simple reference letter. This “Letter of Reference” actually served two purposes: 1. As an introduction to a client. 2. As a professional reference to fulfill hospital by-laws.
Today the Letter of Reference has shed some of its responsibilities. Your locum tenens recruiter will still need it, along with your CV and any supporting documents, to assess your fit with locum tenens work. However, from a hospital credentialing point of view the letters are outdated. These days we find that medical staff offices prefer their own version of the Letter of Reference: A Reference Questionnaire or Evaluation that is specific to each facility. These are usually one to two pages and consist mainly of a handful of questions that rate your performance in a number of areas, followed by a few questions that allow your colleague can elaborate in a more general form. So far the response has been hit or miss, as it does alleviate the need to type out a letter and the forms usually only take a minute or two to complete by hand. However, it is another piece of correspondence in a physician’s busy schedule.
A good rule as you move forward as a locum tenens physician is to keep your references current. I suggest that new doctors gather up a few references prior to leaving their practice, residency or fellowship and current assignment. Basically keep a running list of their work address, phone, fax and email address. This way, you’ll give outdated references a bit of relief and improve the odd of getting the newer references to respond in a timely manner.
Another change that is just as significant as your references is the Procedure Log. Almost anyone who is going to work in a hospital setting or perform any type of procedures is going to be asked to provide a copy of their Procedure Log for the past 24 months when applying for privileges. This includes new residents and fellows. The Procedure Log is basically a running tally of specific procedures and the number of times you performed them. Most modern hospitals and clinics have these readily available and can usually print them out on request. Again, I would suggest asking for a copy of your Procedure Log before you leave your training program or current assignment. Hang on to them for at least two years. It will save you a lot of time and effort trying to track them down after you leave.
Lastly, the UPIN number and all the paperwork and headache it took to get this number are all but gone. The number still shows up on credentialing applications that have not been revised, but the focus is now on the NPI number. Instead of three months, the new NPI number application takes five to 10 minutes to complete online. You are emailed a confirmation letter with your NPI number that you will use for the rest of your career. But that’s not the end of it. Hospitals now require that confirmation letter as part of your credentialing, so please don’t delete that email. Keep a copy handy.
The good news in all of this is that when you work locum tenens assignments through VISTA, we help you make sense and keep track of all of this.