how to become an interim healthcare leader

How to Become an Interim Healthcare Leader

The Ultimate Checklist for New Interim Leaders

Guest Blog By Lilly Brown, RN, MSN, CENP


interim healthcare leaderLilly Brown has been a nurse for over 25 years. Her career in nursing began in the state of Maine but has moved across the United States over the past 10 years. She has held many roles in leadership both as a permanent and interim leader. These various roles have provided a vast knowledge and skill set in patient care, and organizational development ranging from acute care, home care, rehabilitative to outpatient ambulatory services. Her healthcare journey has promoted her to support and mentor others in their leadership growth and development journeys. She has five children and 21 grandchildren who are near and dear to her heart.  


Discovering my “Why” for Becoming an Interim Healthcare Leader

In May of 2012, I asked myself this question: WHY become an interim healthcare leader? I had  a good job of 17 years, a home, a family and security. WHY would I consider this dramatic change and why now? 

There comes a time in most of our lives that we know it is time for a change. In my life it came when my children grew up and moved out on their own. I knew it was time to seek a new purpose. My passion for healthcare had not waned over the years and to have an opportunity to see healthcare from a much bigger realm was very exciting. What I hoped to achieve was new knowledge about healthcare delivery across the United States, the ability to share my knowledge with others, the pleasure of traveling to places I might not otherwise get to see, to meet people and make new friends.

Once I understood my WHY, it was time to get down to the HOW. 

How to Become an Interim Healthcare Leader

In my first interim adventure, I realized after I accepted and started the role that I knew nothing about the nuances of being an interim leader. It was a personal contract, not with an agency so this left me to my own devices to figure out not only what I would need but what I should ask for. This education came from other seasoned interim leaders at the facility, who became mentors for my new adventure.

After this education, I created an interim checklist noting the important factors that will support success in any new role.

The Ultimate Interim Healthcare Leader Checklist:

  1.     Type of assignment and location

This may seem obvious, but learning about the different assignment locations and types will help you go into the process with clarity to make informed decisions. 

  1.     Hiring and interview process

It is important to be able to speak about your top three process improvement successes. 

  1.     Insurance and other benefits

As each travel agency offers varying  benefits, it is important to know coverage, cost, deductible and start time of coverage. Other benefits that are important are points for extended stay hotels, car rental, and flights. 

  1.     Sick time

Some agencies  offer sick time as a benefit, others offer it as it is a state mandate (as in California). 

  1.     Holiday time

Knowing in advance the expectations from both the travel agency and the contracted organization, holiday work expectations minimizes frustration later. 

  1.     Hours required

Always know how many weekly hours are required to meet the deliverables established. Knowing the responsibilities for call coverage for this position and what that includes, i.e. one unit or service line areas, in-person or phone coverage, etc. aids in success. 

  1.     Travel options

Understanding what travel options are available such as every other weekend, once a month for extended days, mode of travel coverage, and if paid travel days are covered is important. If you choose to use your own vehicle then a stipend should be negotiated. 

  1.     Living arrangement

Agencies have different living accommodations based on the location of the job, housing availability, or a stipend if you choose your own housing. After discussing these options, it is very important to assess the type, area and distance from work. I also make sure to research the ratings.

  1.     Car rental

When questioning the rental car agreement, noting the rental agency, the type of car based on area of work such as does it fit the terrain, whether you return the car while you are at home and pick up a new one when you return, and what reimbursement is available for mileage. 

  1. Salary

The salary discussion should be inclusive of the number of salaried hours, pay for call or holidays if indicated and how time at home is included. Another important  question to ask is bonus capability in the event of exceptional performance, referrals and/or extensions. 

  1. Length of time for assignment

Understand not only how long the initial assignment will be, but also if there is an opportunity to extend or go permanent. 

  1. Other requirements

There are times in an interim role that you may be asked to cover more areas or deliverables than the initial agreement or to fill in on different shifts. It is important to have these discussions and expectations ahead of time as much as possible. 

Putting it All Together

This checklist became invaluable as I continued through the various nuances of interim healthcare leadership. I asked all the right questions (or so I thought) from the agencies that reached out to me. I kept a spreadsheet of all the interim or consulting companies, contact information, and their offers with time, date, job, scope, location, and deliverables. In preparing for interviews, the secret was to keep my resume or CV updated, and to be prepared to expound on the roles and initiatives that made me stand out.  

I thought I covered all my bases until I realized that the one most important item on my checklist was missing:

The responsiveness of the travel healthcare agency to your concerns is paramount to success. 

Having support that is timely, knowledgeable, and compassionate is of the utmost importance to your success in the role of an interim when you are alone in an unfamiliar area, facility, living space, and away from family. That connection can make or break the experience for you. A welcoming and supportive agency will always respond quickly, reach out to you on a regular basis to assess your needs, and lend support and ensure guidance in difficult situations. This is now at the top of my checklist.

If you are at a place in your life where you are looking for adventure, excitement, and want the ability to continue to learn and to make a difference in healthcare, interim leadership is for you.


Click here to browse open interim healthcare jobs at Emerald.