By: Robbyn Davis
Smooth travel arrangements can make the difference between a good experience and a bad one for locum tenens professionals on assignment.
I work with a 49-year-old locum tenens physician who prefers one leading hotel chain over another for one reason: It provides feather pillows, and he insists on them. Though he often drives to assignments if they are within four or five hours from home, he would rather not have to pack a feather pillow in the car, or ask for one when he checks in and finds there are only synthetic pillows on the bed.
A feather pillow might sound like a minor issue, but not when you’re close to 50 and want to do everything you can for the good night’s sleep necessary to keep pace with the demands of inpatient hospital work. It’s why I always remember to book this locum doctor in his chain of choice.Knowing pillow preferences is one of the many keys to providing excellent travel services to locum tenens professionals in today’s travel environment. So is letting the professionals choose the hotel chain they prefer—not locking them in to any single brand. What else should you expect from your placement firm’s travel services? Here are five tips.
1. A Focus on Preference
In addition to letting you “choose your chain,” travel coordinators should honor other preferences, like whether you prefer a window or aisle seat on an airplane. One physician I work with appreciates the fact that I know where he likes to sit on a plane when he travels alone and when his wife and family accompany him, and I make reservations accordingly. Some firms leave it up to the airline to assign seats.A good locum tenens travel agent also wants to know about your eating preferences. Do you eat out most of the time while on assignment, or would you like a room with a small kitchen and a grocery store within walking distance of the hotel? Do you want to be near an aquatic center or health club, or is the hotel’s workout room sufficient? Preferences like these should be built into the travel plan and honored every time you take a new assignment.
2. Choice and Flexibility
Does your placement firm let you choose whether to fly or drive to an assignment? Some physicians prefer to drive if the hospital is within four or five hours from home. They can avoid the stress of the airport, pack as many clothes as they like (especially if it’s a longer assignment), and not worry about whether their favorite razor or Swiss army knife will be confiscated in the security check. If it’s a longer trip, flying might be the best way to go. Look for a locum tenens placement firm that offers flexibility here, reimburses for gas at the prevailing mileage rate, and doesn’t require you to travel one way or another to get to an assignment.
3. Seamless Payment and Points
Look for a firm that covers your travel expenses without expecting you to pay with your credit card and reimburse you later. Also be sure that your frequent flyer and hotel loyalty numbers are on file with the travel coordinator, and that you get the points when any bookings are made. “Some placement firms I have worked with roll points into their corporate account,” says one locum doctor. “They don’t let you keep frequent flyer miles or loyalty points for hotel reservations. It’s a nice little perk to be able to keep them.”
4. Easy Rental Car Arrangements
Standing in line at the airport rental car desk burns time and energy … and is completely unnecessary. Ask about your firm’s rental car arrangements and be sure it has a VIP-level contract so getting your rental car is quick and easy once you get off the plane. You want to get your keys and go. You shouldn’t have to wait in line, deal with insurance and other paperwork, or waste time waiting for rental car agents to find a car for you.
5. Staying Ahead of the Game
Your travel coordinator should be making bookings today for assignments you have a month from now. If it’s a new hospital in the firm’s portfolio, the coordinator must have good sleuthing skills. Google and online reviews are great resources. However, it’s important to call the hospital’s physician recruiter or practice coordinator to get the inside scoop on hotels in the area, health clubs, grocery stores and other amenities. The coordinator should also understand that preferences can vary from trip to trip. A hotel booking in Asheville in October might be different for a physician traveling alone—when a first-floor room might do—than if the physician’s spouse is coming along, when an upper-level room with a view of the fall colors might be appreciated.
Consistency and Rapid Response are Key to Top-Level Travel
Perhaps most important, your travel coordinator should have a good memory and keep good notes about the details of every trip. Be sure he or she is accessible. The best ones are on call to handle changes or issues day or night. Just recently, one locum doctor e-mailed me at 4 p.m. on a Friday to tell me there were mold issues in the bathroom of the hotel room he had checked into. I know he is subject to migraines that certain odors can trigger, so I got on the phone immediately and found another room for him nearby. By 6:30 that evening, he was settled in and happy—minus a migraine.
Consistency is another important quality in a travel coordinator. It’s annoying to be switched back and forth between people, or to have to explain a request (or issue) multiple times. Locum tenens professionals are busy, and want the travel experience to require minimal action on their part. I know how much they appreciate the fact that once they tell me their preferences and give me their frequent flyer number, they usually don’t need to talk with me again. When they go to work, they just pick up a key and go to their room, secure in the knowledge that everything is handled. That’s the sign of a good travel professional at work.
About the author: Robbyn Davis is Travel Coordinator for LocumConnections, a physician-led firm providing temporary physician (MD/DO) and physician extender (PA/NP) staffing.