Hiring a Locum Tenens

The hardest part of vacation is finding someone to cover.  Practitioners who share space with other acupuncturists may have an easier time of this.  However, if both practices are busy, patients may not get in at the times they need or as frequently as they need.

Most people willing to work as locum tenens are acupuncturists who are just starting out.  Many of these people are very capable.   More senior practitioners may have concerns about leaving their practice in the hands of someone who is just starting out.  There are fears about the other acupuncturist trying to “steal” their patients.  They may also fear that the other practitioner will make an error of judgment and the patient will stop treatments.

There is no way to guarrantee that this won’t happen.  Know who your locum is.  Know what sorts of things they are best with.   Make sure those are the patients they see.  If you have a good relationship with your patients to begin with, it’s unlikely that a locum will be able to “steal” them away.  If the acupuncturist you have covering for you really does have special knowledge or insight into a particular patient’s condition, you may also want to consider whether sending the patient to this other person might be in the best interests of the patient, even if it is not in your best financial interest.

Very often when someone covers for you, you have them there whatever days they can be available.  They may not have as many days as you would like.  It’s best for everyone if you have only one person at a time cover your office if at all possible. Your patients are already seeing someone new.  They may be uncomfortable with the new person.  It’s not fair to have multiple new people in your office, changing the treatments each time.  Even if you work very hard to have someone do the exact treatment you did, it will always come out a little differently.  Every acupuncturist has their own style.

The most important thing is that you find someone who can fit in with your office.  The locum may not do the same things you do, but their style complements yours in a way that is not too disruptive to the patient.  This can involve meeting with the potential locum, perhaps even being treated by them.  Of course, knowing you are leaving your office in the hands of someone else can be scary.  Consider having them in for one day before you’re going to be gone.  Get feedback from the patients who were seen by that person.

No one can be available all the time. Everyone needs down time. Patients need care.  At some point there’s a good chance someone will have to cover your practice.  Take the time to find the right person.  Keep your expectations realistic.  Then enjoy your vacation.


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Bonnie Koenig has been a licensed acupuncturist since 1999. She is passionate about helping people find real healing and real health. In the process she keeps asking about our attitudes towards sickness and health. Only by being clear on what sickness is, can we ever find health.

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