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The Brief History & Purpose of Locum Tenens

Since the very beginning, locum tenens has been about two things: people and adventure. Originating in Yellowstone National Park in the 1970s, the temporary placement program began as a way to meet a variety of rural medical needs by recruiting doctors to live briefly in a gorgeous locale. Eventually, the wildly successful program was adopted nationwide, meeting the needs of both physicians and medical centers. As locum tenens became a bona fide industry, healthcare professionals recognized the need for established processes and oversight and founded the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO) in 2001. The rest, as they say, is history.


locum tenens adventure

locum tenens [loh-kuh m tee-nenz, ten-inz] – noun, plural lo·cum te·nen·tes.

  1. a temporary substitute, especially for a doctor or member of the clergy.

Why Providers Go Locums

What contributes to the continuing success of the locum tenens industry nationwide is the unique way in which locums opportunities help mitigate ongoing pain points for providers of all ages. Aside from the issues that accompany organizations of varying sizes, the traditional healthcare career path has its inherent set of challenges. Whether you’re in a clinic, hospital or other setting, you may find that you’re spending less time serving patients and more time managing the political and infrastructural dynamics of the organization. Providers also often face long-term residencies and contracts that require them to be on-call, preventing them from traveling or even just maintaining sustainable work-life balance.

When it comes to individual organizations, there exists a separate set of challenges. Often, particularly earlier in their careers, physicians can be stuck working in hospitals or organizations with limited resources that handicap their ability to serve patients well. In turn, that can create an environment where providers are pushed into practices that compromise patient care. At the other end of the spectrum in organizations with plenty of resources, one may face the issues that accompany increased bureaucracy. Limited pathways to move through an organization and excessive administrative work are common issues in larger organizations and can contribute to physician burnout.

Traditional Healthcare Locum Tenens
Time-consuming administrative work Time is focused on patients
Long-term position commitments Flexibility to explore locations and environments
In many cases, a requirement to be on-call Ability to maintain work-life balance

Addressing the Pain Points

Many providers accept all of these issues as an inevitable part of the status quo. But for those with a spirit for flexibility and adventure, locum tenens positions solve these problems while still offering stability. Since a locum tenens physician’s time in any given hospital is limited, resource and practice issues don’t turn into ongoing challenges.

Administrative work, bureaucracy and politics are curtailed since your time in a locum tenens position is completely focused on patient care and nothing more. Providers have the total freedom not only to simply focus on the patient, but also to travel, take time off, and in general be in control over how they manage work-life balance. On top of these benefits, providers gain from working in a variety of positions and contexts that can provide helpful guidance for younger individuals, while preventing burnout for those already established in their careers.

The Power of Providers

Fortunately, the process for transitioning into locums work is fairly seamless. Given the growth of the industry and NALTO’s provision of professional standards, there is a generally accepted locums infrastructure. Providers seeking locums opportunities work with recruiting companies, who not only place individuals in available positions but also provide logistical support for travel, manage administrative tasks, and handle malpractice. All you need to handle is travel preparation, for example making sure pets are taken care of or that your mail is picked up.

While recruiters manage the details of locums positions, providers can do some groundwork that will improve outcomes. Providers who have a sense of what they want to accomplish through locum tenens work – even if that goal is simply “to explore as many different possibilities as I can” – will have a basis for deciding what positions to accept and what to reject. Those guidelines, over time, help shape a locums experience that best fits you and your needs. You may also find that individual positions require certain credentials, in which case your recruiter will set up the relevant credentialing process for that specific need.


The D&Y Difference

While many qualified recruiters exist, D&Y combines in-depth experience with a personal touch. With extensive connections all over the country in a diverse set of locations, medical specialties and environments, D&Y can offer the opportunities that best fit your expertise and goals.

Our staff provides total support from the first point of contact through the completion of each locums assignment – all with a focus on your specific career objectives.


So, you have a passion for people and a love of adventure. Locums work might be the perfect opportunity for you. If you think locums would be a good fit or even if you’re just curious, talk to a D&Y recruiter today to learn more.

Steps to Becoming a Locums Physician:

  1. Talk to a D&Y recruiter.
  2. Fill out an application and gather supporting documents. (Don’t worry, we’ll help)
  3. We’ll work with you to find the perfect fit and even arrange travel!
  4. We’ll handle the insurance details.
  5. Pursue your passion.
  6. We’re with you every step of the way.


Is Locums Right for Residents?

You bet! Locum tenens is a fantastic choice for residents because it provides unparalleled flexibility with the benefit of experiencing medical practices across the country. You’re free to “find your footing” and gain deeper knowledge from some of the best physicians and healthcare facilities. Simply, you learn from the best and aren’t tied down to one location. All of these benefits translate into one very impressive CV.

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