Covering For Colleagues

At some point in your practice, colleagues will ask you to cover for them while they’re away. Feel flattered that they think enough of you and your clinical skills to ask you to do this, but understand that it’s a big responsibility so be sure you’re ready to take it on.

  • Learn About Their Practice

Don’t cover a colleague’s practice if you have no idea what kind of practice it is. What types of patients do they see? What types of evaluation and treatment services do they provide? And what kind of schedule does he or she keep every day? Be clear about whether they’re working full—time, part-time, or on a consultation basis so you know what kind of patient volume you’re covering. While you won’t be conducting their daily activities, you’re taking responsibility for all these patients so be sure you know the scope of their practice.

  • Take Coverage Seriously

Once you agree to cover, make yourself available to take calls quickly and manage crises as necessary. You know how much time you can take before checking messages and returning calls in your own practice, but you don’t know their patients so respond to everything promptly. Notify your answering service that you’re on-call for your colleague and stress that they take care to distinguish between patients who are calling your number by mistake versus your colleague’s patients who may not be identifying themselves clearly. Have a plan in place for how you will manage emergencies from this practice in addition to your own. In most cases, the coverage period will sail along without incident, but it’s best to be prepared.

  • Sometimes You Gotta Just Say “No”

Though it’s common and expected practice to cover for colleagues, accept your limitations and decline if you’re not competent in their area of specialty or don’t have other skills to take on this responsibility. If their patients are accustomed to receiving e-mail and text support and you don’t provide this in your practice, you’re not a good choice to cover for them. If you’re experiencing crises with your own patients or those of your associates, this is probably not the time to take on more risk and stress. If you’re dealing with personal, family, or professional issues, you certainly aren’t going to be in the proper frame of mind to cover when it’s taxing enough to keep up with your own caseload. It’s wise to scale back during such times and to curtail other obligations until your problems are resolved or are better under control.

Take care to understand the magnitude of the responsibility you take on when you agree to cover a colleague’s practice. It’s a great courtesy and custom for practitioners to help one another manage patients while they’re away, but don’t take this duty lightly.

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About the Author:

Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,

The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers

E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317


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