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What Locum Physicians Should Know about State Medical Licensing

What Locum Physicians Should Know about State Medical Licensing

For new physicians and seasoned professionals alike, Staff Care takes pride in providing great locum tenens positions for physicians and advanced practitioners throughout the United States. (For instance, if you haven't already, check out our current mission to fill some badly needed hospitalist roles here.)

And one of the chief benefits of working locum tenens assignments is the opportunity to move from state to state to fill these roles, helping communities meet their healthcare needs while also building some great, unique experience in a variety of facilities and practice settings nationwide.

For these reasons and others, embracing the travel and adventure of the locum tenens lifestyle certainly has its appeal. However, it also requires physicians to become licensed and credentialed in each of the states where they choose to work. No problem — Staff Care's recruiters are standing by to help make sure your licensing is in place in time for your assignment.

Even so, it's a great idea for locum tenens physicians to keep in mind that the licensing process in some states is more complex than it is in others; it's also recommended to have a general knowledge of the state licensing process, even if our recruiters do the lion's share of the heavy lifting on your behalf. With that in mind, we offer this guide to what locum tenens physicians should know about state licensing.

State Medical Licensing: What Locums Physicians Should Know

Here are the primary factors to consider that hold true across all state medical licensing processes:

  • Verification
  • Malpractice Documentation
  • Controlled Substance Registration (CSR)
  • Interviews
  • Follow-ups
  • Time

That's what all states have in common. Much more difficult is to keep in mind what they all don't have in common. Every state medical board varies in its specific processes, as well as how efficiently and timely each of these processes is carried out.

In many states, the medical licensing process can take six months, or more — and that's assuming all documentation requirements are satisfactorily met on the first go-round. If you've practiced in multiple locations, some state boards will require you to verify privileges at each location. And all of these verifications must come directly from the site; extensive follow-up is also sometimes necessary. Again, Staff Care takes the lead in these processes, but it's still good for the physician to understand that some states simply take a long time to license.

Here are a few more aspects of state medical licensing to keep in mind:

  • Keep deadlines in mind. Some states void licensing applications that aren't completed on time , including incomplete applications or those with errors.
  • The hectic pace of residency and post-graduate education can sometimes cause you to neglect to keep your most important documentation assembled and at hand. Keep in mind that many states require prime source verification, in addition training certificate copies, so it's a good idea to always have this information at hand.
  • Third-party references and verifications often require several follow-up calls to assure prompt action. Some boards will void incomplete applications after 60 days.
  • State boards often require extensive documentation for anyone named in malpractice actions. Worse, residents are sometimes named in these actions without their knowledge, so it's all the more important to retain names and contact information for all your supervising physicians. (Read more about malpractice coverage here.)
  • Physicians sometimes overlook the need to retain basic malpractice documentation — for instance the names and contact information for past colleagues, administrators and lawyers.
  • Practicing via videoconferencing, telemedicine or even interstate phone consultation usually requires state licensure within all states where you and your patients reside.

That being said, there are still some important facts to bear in mind when planning your next assignment. Some states take longer than others; knowing which states take the longest, and which the least, amount of time will help you avoid any unexpected surprises down the road.

View Our Interactive State-by-State Medical License Guide

States with the Most and Least Difficult Medical Licensing Processes

The states where medical licensure is least difficult involve an application process that's simple and easy to understand. In addition, everything that's required for licensure in these states is clearly stated up front, with a minimum of surprises along the way.

These states also have a process for reviewing documentation that's quick and efficient, with letters or emails sent out in a timely manner. And in the best-case scenarios, the licensing boards employ friendly customer service representatives who respond to questions and requests for information quickly and efficiently. In short, they realize the value of bringing quality physicians to their states, and do what they can to expedite the process (and avoid discouraging the physician).

Among the states considered to have an efficient licensing process are Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Tennessee.

According to Staff Care's experienced team of state licensing experts, the states in which licensing is most difficult include Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada and South Dakota.

Other sources have also put Florida, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Texas on that list, as well.

What makes one state's medical licensing process more difficult than others? First, the state requires that all care providers undergo the Federal Credentials Verification System (FCVS). For physicians who have already undergone this process, it's not particularly time-consuming or difficult. But for those who haven't, it can add as many as six to eight weeks to the state licensure process. And it should be noted that the FCVS verifies credentials via regular mail services, with no follow-up to ensure verification is expedited.

The application processes for these states also often fail to clearly list each item required for successful licensing. In addition, these states' boards have been known to request additional malpractice information or court dockets, even after all of the other requested material has been provided.

Perhaps the most important factor, though, is communication. When board representatives fail to answer questions promptly — or at all — or don't provide reliable status updates, the medical license process can drag on for months.

Get Assistance with Medical State Licensing from Staff Care

Resources for Medical Residents and Fellows from Staff CareIf this sounds intimidating — worry not. Staff Care takes pride in helping the physicians who work for us procure all necessary state licensing well in advance of their assignments. Although it's certainly a good idea to be familiar with the ins and outs of the licensing process in the state you'd like to work, your Staff Care recruiter will help you make sure all of your documentation is ready and in the best shape for approval.

Our goal is to ease the burden of state medical licensure for our locums professionals, letting you do what you do best: Focus on your new locum tenens position. We do encourage physicians to plan ahead, though. No matter what state you plan to work in, getting an early start on the state licensing process is always a great idea.

Contact a Staff Care Recruiter

Adapted from an article originally published on NewPhysician.com.