Locum tenens assignment 101: A checklist for success

Pediatrician Dr. Trevor Cabrera, a veteran locum tenens physician, shares his checklist for each locum assignment, ensuring he’s always prepared.

When embarking on a new locum tenens assignment, having an onboarding checklist can help prepare you for the unexpected. From travel plans to working in a new environment, organization is the key to success.

For some, like Dr. Rip Patel, a veteran emergency medicine locum physician, having a routine can help to rid of uncertainty when first arriving to a new facility. For others, the mentality for success starts long before an assignment and is crucial to making a great first impression and acclimating to a new setting.

Checklist: must-haves for locum tenens assignments


Before beginning your locum tenens assignment, knowing what you’re required to have on hand will set you up for success and minimize the amount of paperwork you’ll need to have on hand. After working locum tenens for so long, I’ve found these documents are always required:

Medical/DEA licenses

Although this is something that should be taken care of prior to starting an assignment, you never know if someone will need to verify that your license or DEA is active.

Life-saving certifications 

It’s always good to keep hard or digital copies of all of your certifications, such as BLS, ACLS, and PALS.


While it might seem common sense to carry one’s badge or pictures of one’s board certification and licensing, one lesser-known fact is that many airlines will require proof of this identification if you’re ever asked to assist onboard.

Personal identification

Whether a passport or a driver’s license, keeping these on hand, as simple as it might sound, can help with hold-ups and ensure your safety.

COVID-19/flu vaccination cards

For the foreseeable future, many assignments will most likely request proof of vaccinations for these common viruses.

RELATED: Locum tenens 101 for physicians

Checklist graphic: must-dos before locum tenens assignment

Know your locum assignment details before you get there

Whether this is your first locum tenens assignment or you’re a locum tenens pro, it’s important to know specifics about where you’ll be working. Here are the things you’ll want to know before you go:

Administrative details

Knowing where the medical service officer is located can help with credentialing needs, and if needed, may act as notaries for the future. Also, making friends with the administration never hurts.

Information technology

In the event you run into a technological issue, knowing who to reach out to for help to sort out computer problems quickly is critical to providing care.

Hospital maps

Regardless of your specialty, finding your way around a new place is important. You’ll want to know how to reach the emergency room, different departments, and of course, where the bathroom is. This information will all help in a pinch.


As obvious as it might seem, sometimes a facility may have a work schedule that is incongruous with the assignment details you agreed to with the agency. If that’s the case, contact your recruiter as soon as possible so they can correct any errors.

Graphic checklist: must-brings to locum tenens assignment

What you’ll need to bring to your locum assignment


This one doesn’t need an explanation. It’s already an extension of our body.

Advanced medical supplies

Although hard to predict, some facilities will not have some common tools that may be needed for your specialty, like an otoscope or GlideScope. Bringing your own will ensure you have the tools you need on hand.


While most people don’t travel without laptops or cellphones these days, having an extra portable charger or hotspot can be a welcome addition in some of the more rural areas that have less-reliable service.

Emergency travel planning

Having emergency roadside assistance is always a good idea for a flat tire, and sometimes travel protection can be beneficial for flights.

Carry-on capacity

This is something that’s easily overlooked, but keeping work essentials in a carry-on will ease worries in the unfortunate circumstance that checked luggage is lost.

All-weather clothing

Check the weather, always. Getting stuck in a blizzard without snow boots is never a pleasant thing.

Start your locum assignment with confidence

There are endless ways you can prepare for a new assignment. Although not mentioned above, sometimes mementos or reference books can bring extra comfort in foreign places. With some practice, it becomes routine, and the list checks itself off automatically.

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