For generations, one of the things that family doctors have consistently said they love most about what they do is the opportunity to build solid doctor-patient relationships over years of working with the same families. Being able to invest in patients over extended periods of time just adds to the satisfaction of family medicine jobs. So what if you are a locum family physician? Do those doctor-patient relationship opportunities go out the window?

In a word, no. Locums still develop and foster professional relationships with the patients they serve for as long as they serve in a given post. And given that locum positions can stretch out to six or nine months, doctors do have opportunities to see patients multiple times during their tenure. Therefore, the doctor-patient relationships established by locums are equally as important, even if they are shorter.

Tips for Establishing Solid Relationships

The fact that doctor-patient relationships are as important to locums as they are to permanent placement family practice doctors indicates that traveling physicians follow the same basic rules for establishing those relationships. There are countless resources that doctors can utilize to find helpful tips in this arena. A great resource is a document put out by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Here is just a short selection of tips taken from that document and summarized by us:

  • Minimize Distractions – Nothing hinders the doctor-patient relationship more than distractions that give the patient the impression that the doctor does not care all that much. Minimizing distractions are so much more important for the locum who does not have the inherent trust enjoyed by the patient’s regular family physician. Locums need to silence their cell phones, close exam room doors and give patients plenty of opportunity to speak.
  • Engage in Conversation – The modern family medicine patient wants to know that his or her input is welcomed by the doctor. This goes a long way toward building a solid doctor-patient relationship. Locums should, therefore, engage in conversation designed to solicit the thoughts, emotions, and assessments patients have regarding their own
  • Practice Cultural Sensitivity – The concept of cultural sensitivity is of particular importance to locum family doctors given the fact that their travels take them to so many different places where they experience diverse cultures and ways of doing things. The most successful locum will make an effort of learning and practicing cultural sensitivity in order to best meet the needs of all patients.
  • Ask about Alternative Treatments – Like it or not, a lot of today’s family medicine patients combine what they receive from the doctor with alternative treatments. Patients are more likely than ever to engage with chiropractic, holistic medicine, naturopathy, and the like. Doctors need to recognize these choices without giving the impression they do not approve.

Keep All Relationships Professional

It is important to note the fact that all doctor-patient relationships should be maintained strictly at the professional level. Whether a doctor is working as a locum or has a permanent placement family medicine job, there is no room to allow doctor-patient relationships to move outside the confines of the office and into something more personal.

For the locum, there may be the temptation to not adhere strictly to professional standards given the fact that the doctor will be moving on once his or her current assignment is over. But the temptation should be avoided whenever it arises. Doctors have a moral and ethical standard to uphold that does not go by the wayside because one decides to practice as a locum. All doctor-patient relationships need to remain on that higher plane.