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The Stigma of Locum Tenens Staffing & Why It’s All Nonsense

The rate at which hospitals employed a locum tenens agency saw a dramatic increase from 2016-2019. During that time, healthcare facility managers reported an 11% increase in the employment of locum tenens surgeons


The numbers don’t lie: Locum tenens physicians can be a highly valuable asset to many medical centers facing a staff shortage. 


However, despite this increase in employment, there exists a certain degree of stigma around locum tenens staffing. Because locums are often used as a temporary fix to fill a hole in a medical facility’s staffing, many believe this makes locum physicians less qualified than other medical staff.


Despite this stigma, locum tenens could play a vital role in the medical industry throughout 2021 and the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Locum Tenens Staffing Stigma

It has long been thought that locum doctors aren’t able to keep a full-time medical job due to varying reasons, with some of the most popular including:

  • Lack of experience
  • Personality issues
  • Below-average skill set


Some view locum tenens as clinicians who simply fill in on days that “real” clinicians have off. And although this isn’t the case, several locums can tell you from first-hand experience that the stigma is alive and often impacts the workplace environment.


It also affects decision-making in some medical facilities and can discourage  them from choosing to work with a locum agency. Ultimately, this choice may delay resolution of the staffing problem and could lead to a decline in patient care.


Why the Locum Tenens Stigma Is Nonsense

Locum tenens, just like all providers in the medical field, must have the proper licensing and expertise to qualify for  a position. Although a younger locum tenens physician who just finished his residency isn’t as experienced as a 30-year doctor, it doesn’t make him any less qualified.


Researchers found no significant differences between locums and permanent doctors during a 30-day mortality research study. In fact, some hospitals even witness an increase in patient satisfaction when using locum tenens to fill voids in the schedule.


Overall, locum tenens are legitimate medical workers who have a lot to offer the industry. In spite of the perception that their work is  lower quality due to the amount of job switching they do, their skill level is equal to or potentially greater than that of permanent doctors


Pros and Cons of Locum Tenens

Although the stigma surrounding locum tenens workers is largely false, there are some pros and cons to know about when choosing locum vs. another option.


Pros of Temporary Physician Staffing


Relieves Physician Burnout

Burnout was already a significant issue among clinicians before anyone could even fathom the idea of a global pandemic. And with burnout rates at an all-time high, many worry about patient safety due to the startling increase in medical errors


Locum tenens relieves this issue by offering temporary replacements for any situation. It also allows some flexibility when scheduling, allowing you to combat physician burnout through scheduling.

Gives You Time to Find a Permanent Hire

Although some medical facilities don’t want to work with a locum tenens staffing agency because they want a permanent solution, a locum physician can fill the gap until the permanent hire is in place. . 


Instead of having to rework other schedules, or rush the recruiting and hiring process, a facility can bring on a locum tenens to fill the gap until a permanent solution is found. This allows you to  make the best hire, not the quickest hire.


Cons of Temporary Physician Staffing


One of the challenges of working with locum tenens  clinicians is that it requires an efficient and effective onboarding process to ensure the provider is productive from the onset of their assignment. 



Credentialing, if not managed efficiently, can delay the arrival of a locum tenens clinician. This would be particularly true if the provider did not currently hold the appropriate state license.


Locum Tenens in 2021

2021 is a great year to eliminate the stigma and consider locum tenens staffing. With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, there’s no better time to start the fight against burnout among your medical staff.


Do your homework and make the effort  to find a locum tenens agency that’s willing to adjust to your needs. Choose an agency that’s looking to form a long-term partnership with you, rather than a one-off agreement. 


In the end, what matters most is making sure your facility’s schedule is covered and patients are getting the best care possible.  Locum tenens clinicians can play a key role in helping you achieve those objectives.

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