As the aging population increases, the demand for healthcare services is rising worldwide. Yet, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicted a shortage of 150,000 physicians by 2025. ResearchAndMarkets.com also anticipated the cost of global medical staffing to be $44.65 billion USD by 2025.
The lack of physicians will increase the demand for healthcare staffing services. Are you a physician who is interested in working in a more flexible environment? Have you asked, “what is a locum tenens physician”?
If so, continue reading this article to learn more about the locum tenens physician role.
What Is a Locum Tenens Physician?
The term locum tenens was first used in 1640. This Medieval Latin term translates directly as (one) holding a place. The practical definition describes when one person temporarily takes the place of another.
This term is most often associated with physicians and clergymen. The practice of using temporary doctors first started in the late 1970s.
Many rural physicians had difficulty completing continuing medical education (CME) training. Often, there were few doctors in the town, so they were unable to leave for training. One company in Utah started the Rural Outreach Physician Education program.
This program brought physicians to the University of Utah for training and CME. They also provided temporary physicians to cover their practice during the training. From here, this concept spread throughout the country.
Job Prospects for Locum Tenens Doctors
A 2017 survey found that 48,000 physicians were working as locum tenens. According to the Self Care 2017 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends, 94% of surveyed facilities stated they used locum tenens doctors in the previous 12 months. This demonstrated an increase from only 74% in 2012.
The locum tenens job market is projected to increase as the demand for healthcare increases. Over the past century, the demand for medical providers has exceeded the supply in the U.S. As this post describes, using locum tenens physicians can fill gaps in staffing.
How Much Can You Expect to Earn?
Locum tenens physicians work as independent contractors. The payment is most often a set hourly rate for the time worked. The assignment may range from one shift to a 6-month stretch in one location.
The placement agency usually manages the payment of the locum tenens. Several factors impact the pay rates.
Demand for your specialty. If your specialty is in higher demand, you will often receive increased payment. Highly sought specialties include internal medicine, hospitalists, and psychiatrists.
Type and location of the facility. Rural locations often have more difficulty finding permanent physicians. These locations experience a higher need and will often pay more.
Professional skills, experience, and patient load. Locum tenens who fill positions requiring high skill levels and difficult procedures are often paid more. In contrast, you may receive lower pay if the caseload is low.
Shift requirement. Working undesirable shifts such as weekends or holidays can net higher pay. Taking call may also provide a higher hourly rate.
It’s important to note that as a contractor you do not receive traditional benefits. Many agencies do offer housing, travel, and meal per diems. They may also pay for your malpractice insurance.
Requirements to Become a Locum Tenens Physician
Your practice specialty can impact the number of assignments routinely available. Specialties that do not involve long-term follow-up care have more opportunities. Examples include emergency medicine, anesthesia, interventional radiology, critical care, and hospitalists.
Physicians who don’t directly work with patients are good candidates for locum tenens. Examples include radiologists and pathologists.
If your specialty falls within these high need areas, you may wish to explore further. There are several steps needed to begin working as a locum tenens physician.
Find a locum tenens company that you would like to work with. Complete their application process. You will need to include information about your education, residency, and fellowship.
The agency will also need proof of your work history, licenses, and certifications. These applications may take up to 4 hours to complete.
The agency will run background checks and speak with references. This confirms that you are in good standing with the board of licensure and accreditation. These checks provide documentation that you can perform the skills and procedures required.
If your assignment is in a hospital, you will need to complete the credentialing application. The hospital will review the application and make a decision regarding the granting of privileges.
You must have an active license to practice medicine in the state where you will be working. If you do not have this license, you will need to apply with the state’s medical board. Most states post their licensure requirements on their board’s website.
Is Locum Tenens Right for You?
As with all jobs, there are pros and cons to becoming a locum tenens physician. Here are several questions to consider.
- Do you enjoy career flexibility and new challenges?
- Are you able to pick up and change locations easily?
- Do you work well in unfamiliar settings?
- Do you have the financial knowledge and resources to establish your own retirement plan?
- Are you able to obtain health insurance as an independent contractor?
- Are you financially disciplined enough to allow for variations in your monthly income?
If these questions describe your personality and desires, working as a locum tenens physician may be where you want to be.
Do You Enjoy Exploring New Life Opportunities?
Are you interested in more variety in your work schedule? Do you like traveling? Is your specialty in high demand?
This article about, “what is a locum tenens physician” has provided an overview of this type of contract work. This may be the answer to a new career direction.
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