Dr. Tim Franklin has a unique story about how he found his way into dental locuming as a new dentist. Read on to hear more about his experience. Interview by Madalyn Davidson.
MD: What gave you the idea to start locuming and when did you start in your career?
TF: Right out of school I started working in a 100% FFS office in a very affluent area, and I had plans to buy in and expand with the current owner. We worked together well for about 2 years, before we ran into some typical growing dental office issues. I needed a change and moved offices to work with a medicaid-focused practice for the next two years which was a very intense change for me.
After 4.5 years out of school, I was already feeling burnt out. I moved to part time with the medicaid practice, and was very involved in the local dental society as well as a natural networker. I had a couple of friends ask, “Hey, can you cover my office for me for a couple of weeks?” I said, “Sure, I have the time”. This evolved into my starting my own small scale locums business. I recruited a few new grads and dental “vagabonds” such as myself. As requests really started ramping up, it stopped being just friends asking me to find someone to cover for their office for short periods of time. I educated myself in writing contracts for short term dental employees and how to fill positions for hiring offices.
Life can be chaotic at times and dentists find themselves in interesting situations. In addition to maternity leave and general vacation coverage, I filled positions for the following scenarios:
- One dentist had a tree fall on him and broke his shoulder while chainsawing
- One young dentist was diagnosed with cancer
- One dentist broke his back and had to have back surgery
MD: How has locuming enriched your life as a dentist?
TF: Having the flexibility to plan your schedule with much more control is a wonderful blessing. My wife and I love traveling and exploring this beautiful world, and we have been able to spend extended amounts of time in Africa, Europe, Asia, and South America.
MD: Would you encourage other dentists to locum? And in what ways could they use it in their career?
TF: Absolutely I would encourage other dentists to locum. It is the best way to experience all the strengths and weaknesses of multiple offices over a very short period of time. It is like a crash course in practice management. You will learn some great techniques to take with you and you will see some not-so-great things that you can learn from as well.
MD: How did you find your locum jobs?
TF: It started with friends who owned offices asking for help. From there it evolved to friends of friends, and eventually strangers asking for me to find someone to cover. I often ended up covering myself if I couldn’t find someone.
MD: How do you build trust when working with new offices with the dentist, staff, and patients? Have you ever had issues of gaining trust of staff or patients?
TF: That’s a great question. The rules for forming trust and building rapport are universal whether you are a seasoned veteran, a new graduate, or a dental locum. People do treatment with people they trust. It’s important to know that as a locum you won’t be doing a lot of heavy treatment. It’s mostly hygiene exams and minor restorative, maybe a few simple extractions. I have read dozens of books on building trust and pretty much practiced it earlier in life as I had probably 40 jobs before college, with everything from waiting tables to selling Cutco knives. Be open and honest with patients. I set expectations low and try to deliver big. Sometimes there are complications, and that is a discussion between you and the patient.
MD: How do you set yourself up for a new job? What type of communication and contracts did you use to ensure success? Any pitfalls?
TF: A few jobs were more involved than others. Some offices require way more prep time than others. It’s kind of like patients. Some are easy-peasy, and some are divas. My contracts evolved as I continued from simple one-page contracts to a little more drawn out contracts if there were contingencies or complexities involved. The only pitfall I would say is the same advice I would give a new grad, you can’t please everyone. Just like dismissing a difficult patient; there are those dental offices, as well. There are not many, and they are the exception, not the rule. They will waste your time, negotiate down, and expect the world. In the end, they may not pay you either. Again, these are few and far between, but don’t waste your time when the red flags are obvious.
If you would like to know more about dental locuming or would like to be matched with a highly skilled dental locum, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org