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Locum Tenens vs Per Diem Physicians – What’s the Difference?

The Locum Tenens vs. Per Diem Physician’s Difference


Temporary medical work is a growing solution to a staffing shortage plaguing the healthcare industry. In recent years, this already pressing issue has only accelerated amongst challenges such as an aging population and worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. 


Locum tenens and per diem clinicians both play instrumental roles in the medical field. They both aren’t permanent, yet can be an essential component of a medical facility’s success. While it may be difficult to fill clinician roles permanently due to demand, location, and other uncontrollable factors,  the right clinician with the right background could be an airplane trip  away. 


What is a Per Diem Clinician?


Per diem clinicians have essentially the same job title and description –  – per day work. This is not to be confused with the term “per diem” that refers to a budgeted amount a worker can spend a day. But what does the per diem clinician role include?


  1. Temporary work without set hours
  2. Placed into rotation when needed
  3. Pick up available shifts when available 
  4. No set beginning and end to a role or assignment
  5. Freedom to travel with income 


There are per diem nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, physician assistants, etc. at every healthcare facility. They do not have an established assignment or shift(?) rotation, and that just might be what works perfectly for them and the hospital. It allows them to pick up shifts in their area of expertise as they become available. It also allows the freedom to  travel, which can be extended or cut short without a contract in place to define the medical assignment. 


A hospitalist, for example, is able to work on a regular basis without committing to a set number of hours. The facility, however, has the freedom to manage the role in the same regard. A per diem clinician may have work available to them when there is a demand, but no work is guaranteed past that. 


What is a Locum Tenens Clinician?


A locum tenens clinician provides medical work to a healthcare facility with a well-defined assignment purpose. There is a set beginning and end to the locum tenens job, including the following:


  1. Established contract with a set start and end date
  2. Benefits that have been decided upon by the facility and staffing agency, such as housing, on-site meals, travel costs, malpractice insurance, etc. 
  3. Fills a specialty role where needed
  4. Can take on a more demanding role
  5. Freedom to travel with income 


When a clinician accepts a locum tenens role, they know where they’ll be (do per diems rotate between departments?) and the role they are serving for the entirety of their time there. They are a more permanent placeholder. Perhaps a clinician is out on FMLA, or there is a hiring gap for a key position, a locum tenens candidate can perfectly fill this void.


Often healthcare facilities in rural locations lack the medical staff to meet challenging patient treatment demands. To improve patient care, a locum tenens provider who has a love of travel solves this issue. It’s a win-win when the facility meets their unique staffing needs, and the clinician can do the job they love with the freedom full-time jobs don’t allow.


The Pros and Cons of Locum Tenens vs. Per Diem


When weighing the pros and cons of locum tenens assignments vs. per diem, the choice is up to the clinician making it. There are clinicians who want the ultimate freedom of per diem roles, understanding it is temporary work that provides supplemental income. Depending on the point an individual is in their life, this could be a strong option since it is typically always available and in demand.


Locum tenens assignments offer more stability, since a clinician will work closely with a staffing agency to bridge the gap between their career, lifestyle, and location needs when securing a contracted locum job. A locum tenens clinician is able to advance their knowledge and skill set, with the added security of knowing how long they will be in that role. They also have the benefit of developing deepening relationships with co-workers, and even the possibility of being asked back when other hiring gaps arise. 


The Right Locum Staffing Agency


When locum tenens is the clinician’s choice, it is imperative that finding the right staffing agency is the next choice. An established locum tenens staffing agency has the knowledge and experience to fulfill the requirements of both clinicians and healthcare facilities. ’. Staffing agency professionals  understand the changing medical climate, and once a close relationship is developed, can guide a clinician to the right role and location based on their needs. 


At D&Y, we’re committed to locum tenens clinicians. Let our professional staff assist you from application to locums assignment. Learn more about us today! 


If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, check out more about locum tenens here:


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