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How to Transition From Permanent to Interim Director of Surgical Services

June 13, 2019


How to Transition From Permanent to Interim Director of Surgical Services

One of the more challenging and rewarding career options for perioperative directors and managers is a move to interim leadership. Interim assignments offer the opportunity to make meaningful change, travel to new places, and earn a more lucrative income than permanent roles. Have you ever found yourself wondering how to transition from permanent to interim director of surgical services?

If you are considering moving into interim leadership you will want to prepare yourself to make the leap. Interim hires happen fast and hospitals typically prefer a seasoned interim over someone seeking a first-time assignment. Fortunately, there are a few important steps you can take to appear more competitive and ready to get your first assignment.


1. Get more state nursing licenses

Interim assignments move very fast, often with an expectation of reporting to work within one to two weeks of accepting the job. There is rarely time to acquire a new state license. Clients will always prefer to hire an interim that can hit the ground running and that includes a valid nursing license.

Tip #1: Compact licenses are the best bang for your buck, however, you have to meet the criteria for acquiring one. If you live in a compact license state but work in a neighboring non-compact license state, make sure you pick up that compact license as well.

Tip #2: California has a gigantic market for interim leadership. They also have the longest licensing process in the country. It can take months to receive your valid California license. Get started on it now so you’ll be ready.

2. Immunizations Up-to-Date within the past six months 

The credentialing period before reporting to assignment can be fast and furious. Once again, in competition with another interim, the person with up-to-date credentialing under their belt will have a leg up in winning the assignment.

Tip: TB is the most requested.  MMR, TDAP (tetanus, dyptheria), flu shot (seasonally), and Hep B are also commonly required.

3. Prepare to pass a drug test, physical examination, and background check

Don’t be caught off guard. Deals can and will fall apart last hour if you are deemed not fit for duty. Best to know beforehand if you have any issues that may need to be addressed.

4. Stay current on your credentials

Update your BLS, ACLS , and any other relevant or advanced credentials.

5. Adapt your resume

An interim-focused resume should look a little different than a resume for a permanent job. It should be tighter, non-repetitive, and focus on specialties and accomplishments, (e.g. surgical specialties, leadership specialties). Now is the time to look back on your career and keyword your resume based on past accomplishments. Some examples include:

    • Joint Commission preparedness.
    • Junior talent mentorship
    • Periop 101
    • Basic operational improvements
    • On-time starts
    • Turn times
    • Block scheduling
    • Change management
    • LEAN implementation

6. Prepare letters of recommendation and references

It’s important to have not just your resume, but any other documentation you might want to submit ready to go. This can include letters of recommendation and list of references.

7. Be committed, flexible, and available

You need to be ready to start in 14 days. Do you need to give 30 days notice from your permanent job? This could be a problem.

Tip: Cast a wider net, especially at first.  You might more easily score your first interim role as an OR manager. You might feel as if you are overqualified, but it’s a great way to get your foot in the door. You are only committed to 13 weeks but afterward, you’ll be an experienced interim. This is both more appealing to your next potential employer and valuable experience for yourself on the intricacies of working on assignment.


1. W2 or 1099?

Are you eligible to work as a 1099 contractor? Do you need to work as a W-2 employee for benefits? Familiarize yourself with the difference between a W-2 employee and a 1099 consultant. How you are designated will play a large part in your overall pay rate, tax requirements, and benefit opportunities.

Tip #1: 1099 contractors are often more appealing to both recruiters and the client. If you would like to go this direction, organize yourself into an LLC.

Tip #2: Meet with an accountant before deciding 1099 or W-2. Familiarize yourself as much as possible with tax implications.

2. Secure Health Insurance

This is also related to 1099 vs W-2. Even if you receive medical insurance through your W-2 employer, you will most likely have downtime between assignments. You would also be constantly switching insurance companies each assignment. Consider private insurance through your spouse or COBRA and ask to have your premiums factored into your pay rate when you negotiate for assignments.

3. Pet Care/Boarding

Research pet boarding or find a pet-sitter you trust.

Tip. If you have a therapy or service animal, make sure you have the proper training and documentation ready before you start applying to out-of-state jobs. Many airlines have strict requirements and require advance notice before bringing a therapy animal on board.

4. Sign up for a frequent flier perks

It’s no secret that people can earn free flights and upgrades through airline frequent flier programs. Be sure to sign up for any and all airlines you enjoy flying. It might also be prudent to get a credit card that offers travel benefits.

Tip: Global Entry is a great service for expediting yourself through TSA checkpoints.

5. Prepare to travel with a carry-on

While you may not be able to depart to your assignment with only a carry-on, learn how to utilize more efficient packing for your regular trips back and forth from home. It’s also worth investing into a high-quality carry-on with lots of pockets.

Interim assignments can vary from assignment to assignment; easy vs hard, close to home vs across the country, or holding down the fort at a well-run facility vs cleaning up a department in severe crisis. By being prepared and knowing how to transition from permanent to interim director of surgical services, you’ll stand a better chance at landing that next interim opportunity as well as find yourself in a strong position to adapt to the challenges and demands of working on the road. Good luck!

About the Author

Ashley Lloyd joined Whitman Partners in the fall of 2018 as an Associate Portfolio Manager. With a background in retail store management, Ashley has honed the unique skills of customer relations, leadership and employee development and mentorship. With a 6-year tenure with Buffalo Exchange, Ashley was the store manager for 3 locations throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Born in San Diego, CA, Ashley and her family relocated to the Bitterroot Valley in Montana for fly fishing and snow sports. She attended University of Oregon and earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology. After graduating, Ashley resided in many locations around the PNW before settling down in Portland in 2018. In her free time, you can find Ashley enjoying concerts or exploring the many hiking trails Oregon has to offer.