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What is Locum Tenens? A Comprehensive Starter Guide

With over 85% of hospitals now utilizing locum tenens, it’s more relevant than ever to consider what locum tenens can mean for your career.


What is a Locum Tenens Provider?


Simply put, locum tenens providers are clinicians who partner with locum tenens staffing companies in order to fill temporary vacancies at hospitals and medical centers around the country. 


Working locum tenens is not an especially old concept in the medical world, starting as a solution to fill vacancies in rural communities with fewer staffing options. However, it’s only gaining more popularity as technology rises and allows for easier communication, management, and much more.


Today, thousands of physicians, psychologists, CRNAs, PAs, and NPs are contracting with locum tenens staffing agencies to practice medicine all over the country – and often deciding where and when they work while earning more than they would in a traditional, non-locums position.


How Locum Tenens Works

To those unfamiliar with the locum tenens recruitment and assignment process, it may seem overly daunting and confusing, though the process has become streamlined over time.

Once you decide you’d like to learn more about locum tenens work, try reaching out to a staffing organization (or a few!) to explain what you’re looking for and to get a feel for what is needed and expected from you.

If you find yourself resonating with a particular agency, let them know you’d like to work with them. They will work with you through their onboarding process, and then your assigned recruiter will help you get placed on your first assignment.


This is a great place to start, but it leaves a few key questions, such as:

  • How Much Are Locum Tenens Physicians Paid?
  • How Are Insurance and Liability Handled with Locum Tenens?
  • Who is Responsible for Travel Costs?


How Much Are Locum Tenen Physicians Paid?

On average, locum tenens physicians make around 20% more annually than their permanent counterparts. While this is doesn’t include roles such as nurses and PAs, similar percentages are common across the industry. Of course, compensation will vary based on skillset and specialty, and the areas you will be assigned to will pay differently based on their needs at the time. Depending on the travel, or conditions you are willing to work in the pay will generally be higher.


How Are Insurance and Liability Handled with Locum Tenens?

For permanent employees, liability insurance is handled by the hospital or clinic. However, locum tenens clinicians are responsible for securing the liability insurance necessary to practice medicine. While there are many services out there to simplify this for clinicians, another option is to consider working with an agency.


Locum tenens agencies will usually have a malpractice policy in place for providers on assignment. Be sure to discuss this with your locum tenens representative, as different agencies may handle this differently.


Who is Responsible for Travel Costs?

For individuals, a travel budget is often included as a part of the locum tenens contract, making it up to the individual to plan and manage all travel and accommodations. However, for those working with an agency, the process is much more streamlined.


Not only will an agency take care of all of the travel and housing costs, but even coordinate flights, rental cars, hotels, or other accommodations as needed. Depending on the length of the assignment, you may be put up in a hotel near the hospital, or an apartment close by if the assignment is longer.


Why Clinicians Choose to Work Locum Tenen Jobs

Clinicians choose locums work for a wide variety of reasons, from the numerous benefits unique to locum tenens, to the ways in which it can support the way they want to work.


Many clinicians will work locum tenens as a side job in order to supplement their income. This is due mainly to the fact that you can get locum assignments that are short in length, with some assignments ranging from just a few shifts to a few days.


Locum tenens is also a great fit for senior clinicians who wish to ease their way into retirement by gradually reducing the amount that they work. For post-retirement clinicians who find themselves wanting to continue practicing, they might appreciate the flexibility that locum tenens offers.


Here are a few other advantages that you can take into consideration and see why others work locum tenens jobs: 

  • Supplemental income
  • Set your own schedule
  • Extensive travel opportunities across the country
  • Developing work skills in new environments
  • Helping people in under-served areas
  • More experience in your desired field


The extra income is potentially the most impactful decision in choosing a locum tenens placement. The salary increase alone can be significantly more than working at a hospital or medicine group full time.


Locum Tenens Frequently Asked Questions


Can I Work Locum Tenens As a Full-Time Physician?

Yes! While many clinicians will work a locum tenens placement part-time, you can absolutely work full-time as well. Those who work locum tenens full-time enjoy the control over their work schedule, and often see better compensation for the same specialty.


Why Do Healthcare Facilities Partner With Locum Tenens Agencies?

Using an agency can help ensure the prevention of lost revenue from recruitment campaigns, as well as lacking sufficient staff to comfortably meet demand. It can be difficult balancing the workload of recruitment and locum tenens clinicians. Locum tenens staffing agencies are able to handle the heavy lifting, and ensure everything can run as efficiently and cost-effective as possible.


How Do I Get Started With a Locum Tenens Job?

If you think you may be interested in pursuing locum tenens work as a career or even for one assignment, you’ll need to spend a bit of time researching locums staffing agencies that meet your needs.


Do you need help with out-of-state credentialing? Covering the cost of travel? Covering your insurance?


Once you’ve narrowed your list down to a few agencies, reach out to recruiters at each agency and determine which will be the best fit for you (you may need to try a few before you find one that fits you best!).


Note: This blog was originally published on 1/4/2021 and was updated on 7/24/2022.

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