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Temporary Practice Coverage

No matter how tireless the practitioner, everyone needs time away from the office. Unfortunately, dentists in small practices find real vacations - let alone sick days - are almost impossible, because no one is available to fill in.

While locum tenens - or substitute - placements have long been routine in medical practices, most staffing providers now cover dental businesses, too. This includes specialists such as orthodontists, pedodontists, periodontists and prosthodontists.

Locum tenens agencies provide support during the placement process, but certain measures can make the experience more successful for both the hiring professional and the substitute. Experts say to:

  • Arrange coverage at least two to three months prior to a planned absence.
  • Thoroughly review the subbing dentist's qualifications and experience, as well as all employment contracts, particularly regarding cancellation policies.
  • Inform patients of the temporary reassignment of their care, providing the dentist's name and background information.
  • If money is an issue, limit hiring costs by cutting back office hours during planned absences.
  • Substitutes should receive all pertinent contact information, including phone numbers for other staff, specialists for referrals, local hospital emergency departments and patients.
  • Discuss "problem" patients with the substitute prior to departure.
  • Make up a checklist for the temporary dentist. Items might include lab protocols, prescription policies, patient communication, etc.
  • Provide review forms for studies, consults and labs; require initials or a signature.
  • Provide patient follow-up forms to be completed by the subbing dentist. This provides continuity of treatment and reduces the likelihood of errors.