3 Critical Soft Skills for Locum Tenens Success


soft skills

Unsurprisingly, there’s a strong focus on clinical expertise in the healthcare world. It often takes center stage and can overshadow the equally crucial role of soft skills. However, these sometimes-neglected competencies are essential for physicians and advanced practice providers (APPs). Soft skills are even more significant if you’re considering or already engaged in locum tenens roles.


The nature of locum tenens practice requires you to adapt swiftly to new clinical settings, care for diverse patient populations, and collaborate efficiently with different healthcare teams. It’s a dynamic career where soft skills bridge the gap between clinical knowledge and the human aspect of healthcare.


Soft skills characterize your ability to interact effectively with others and encompass a wide range of attributes, including communication, empathy, collaboration, and rapid adaptability.


This blog highlights three of the critical soft skills that can make you a more capable clinician and elevate the quality of care you provide.

1.   Adaptability and flexibility

As a locum tenens clinician, adaptability and flexibility are arguably some of the most critical skills, and they can make or break an assignment. If you master these skills, you can navigate the contrasting and ever-changing settings inherent to the role.


In locum tenens, you could find yourself in crowded urban hospitals, community-centric rural clinics, high-tech specialized facilities, or even remote telemedicine settings — you’re a medical chameleon! Each assignment introduces unique workflows, patient demographics, and clinical protocols. Your ability to swiftly adapt and gracefully change course is the cornerstone of success in this profession.


Beyond the clinical aspects, your role in locum tenens requires you to engage with a diverse array of patients effortlessly. Your skill in understanding their specific needs, bridging cultural gaps, and providing tailored care enriches their experience and improves outcomes.

2.   Communication

When you begin a locum tenens role, you typically join an established healthcare team where your new colleagues know each other well. In this scenario, communication is key. It’s about accurately relaying information and fostering camaraderie and trust. Sharing insights, actively listening to people’s experiences, and demonstrating a willingness to collaborate are essential elements of successful communication. When you communicate well, you become an integral part of the team rather than just a placeholder.


Patients also benefit immensely when there’s seamless communication between locum tenens clinicians and permanent staff. Clear and open communication ensures the entire care team is aligned in their approach to care, resulting in a cohesive and consistent patient experience, irrespective of changes in the clinical team.


As your assignment draws to a close, good communication during care transitions is particularly crucial, as concise and thorough handovers contribute to a smooth transfer of responsibility. Permanent staff should clearly understand your patient’s condition, treatment plan, and other relevant information to ensure uninterrupted, quality care.


Regardless of the setting or timing, effective communication supports teamwork and contributes to the collective mission of providing exceptional patient care.

3.   Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is often underestimated but is an impactful soft skill for locum tenens doctors and APPs. It enables you to negotiate issues with colleagues, build lasting rapport, and contribute to a positive and inclusive workplace culture.


As a locum tenens physician, you’ll inevitably encounter a multitude of personalities, each with their own unique needs, preferences, and emotions, presenting both opportunities and challenges. Emotional intelligence helps you remain composed in the face of adversity, diffuse tense situations, and find common ground when differences arise.


By demonstrating empathy, active listening, and respect for your colleagues, you contribute to a culture where teamwork thrives, and everyone feels valued and supported. This in turn enhances job satisfaction, reduces burnout, and ultimately benefits patients.


Emotional intelligence also helps you connect with patients on a deeper level, understanding not only their medical conditions but also their emotions, fears, and hopes. This empathetic approach leads to stronger patient-provider relationships and improves the patient experience.

How to enhance your soft skills

No matter how good your soft skills are, there’s always room for fine-tuning! You can leverage locum tenens assignments to help hone your soft skills by embracing the disparate roles as an opportunity to enhance your adaptability, communication, and emotional intelligence. Each assignment is a learning experience that allows you to identify areas for improvement and refine your approach to patient care and teamwork.