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July 10, 2017
March 14, 2023

Within the locum tenens industry there are ethical guidelines that need to be adhered to ensuring a professional and respectful work environment. Outlined within this article are some of the more important ethical principles every physician should know about ethics and locum tenens practice.

The ethical principles established by NALTO for the physician locum tenens industry are designed to maximize the relationships between physicians, clients, and locum tenens companies through honesty, professionalism, and integrity. All NALTO company members and the physicians they represent are held to the ethical standards outlined below (NALTO.org).

One of the advantages of using a NALTO member agency is that these 40+ firms and their recruiters adhere to strict ethical guidelines. Additionally, in the likelihood a conflict arises, NALTO's Ethics Committee will intervene on the Locums behalf, drastically limiting the chances that a physician would ever get caught up in a dispute. Visit the NALTO website to download the NALTO Code of Ethics and NALTO Standards of Practice agreements.

Locum Tenens Agencies

A reputable recruiter will never present your name and/or CV for potential placement without your consent. This means that an agency representative should tell you enough about an opportunity before submitting your credentials so that you can give your approval or disapproval. Although you may or may not be aware of every aspect of the agreement, you should have sufficient knowledge to be able to say with comparative certainty that you would accept the placement if the terms of the agreement are reasonable.

A recruiter must be upfront and honest with you about all aspects of a potential engagement. When you first arrive at a new location, you should be well prepared with prior knowledge of the hours you are required to put in, patient volume, procedures you are expected to perform, or level of staff support. In addition, you should be told if the location is experiencing any sort of internal tumult.

Be aware of recruiters encouraging you to get out of a commitment while you are within the standard 30-day opt-out window - sign with their agency for the same engagement you started with another agency; most contracts include a non-compete clause so administrators are bound to stay with the company that initially presented you.

Do not play one agency against the other for better pay and more attractive incentives. You may secure the engagement on your terms if the client is desperate, but you probably will not be offered placements from either agency in the future. Not to mention it is considered a breach of ethics to contract independently at a facility where you have practiced with a staffing agency in the past 2 years as stated in you contractual terms of agreement.

It is a good practice to avoid discussing pay rates when providing locum tenens services at a facility where other physicians are doing the same; locums' individual rates are contractually agreed upon prior to placement.

Strengthening Relationships

A locum tenens career involves a series of temporary opportunities. That being said, a vast majority of physicians build long-term relationships with their favorite agencies. Delivering and expecting strong ethical standards as well as adhering to high standards will ensure that the professional integrity of your working relationships are not only longstanding but also satisfying as well.