May 4, 2023

We have recently had several applicants who are returning to practice after a significant gap in time.  What kind of policy or practices do you recommend for practitioners who are reentering practice after an extended time off?

Practitioners may take an extended leave from practice for a variety of reasons, including family obligations, personal health, alternative careers, or retirement. Several resources for physicians returning to practice are available through the AMA and the Federation of State Medical Boards, among others.

From a Medical Staff perspective, one of the eligibility criteria we typically include in our Credentials Policy is that practitioners are not even eligible for privileges unless they can demonstrate clinical activity in their specialty in an acute care hospital setting in the past two years.  Any exception could be considered through the waiver process and might include conditions on their appointment to ensure a safe return to practice.

We have also worked with hospitals to develop a Practitioner Re-Entry Policy that gives the Medical Staff leaders the authority to develop a Re-Entry Plan for any such applicant.  Depending on the circumstances surrounding the practitioner’s absence, such a Re-Entry Plan could include, among other things, a competency evaluation, a refresher course, and/or retraining in order to ensure that the individual’s general and specialty skills are up to date.

The bottom line is that the Medical Staff must confirm the individual’s current clinical competence before putting its stamp of approval on them.