Provider-centric staffing for purpose-driven healthcare
Posted on
April 3, 2023

Locum 101: Post-Residency Locum Tenens FAQ

Many of the steps required to become a practicing Physician are immovable. There is a set process and schedule that students of academic medicine must follow to become graduates, then residents, fellows, and, finally, a Physician who can practice medicine without direct supervision. 

If you have been working diligently toward your goal of becoming a Physician, then you know that there are many elements of the process over which you had no control. As you approach the end of your residency, however, you will have some big decisions to make about where you live and what type of work you want to do. 

Going into private practice, group practice, working in a hospital setting, or joining an established practice are all options that you can explore in search for your dream job. Another option to consider as you near the end of your residency is working in a locum tenens position.

What is the definition of ‘locum tenens’?

The Latin phrase "locum tenens" can be translated to mean "place holder." A Physician who works in locum tenens positions is filling a gap while the attending Physician is away or while the practice looks to hire someone to fill the position.

In the beginning, locum tenens positions were established to help staff in rural and underserved areas. This is still a way to temporarily fill vacancies in areas where it takes extra time to find a Physician for a permanent position. Locum tenens positions can also provide Physicians with added flexibility, opportunities to travel, and work opportunities during times of transition.

How does locum tenens work?

The most common way to find locum tenens work is to get established with a locum tenens agency or network. Physicians with independent practices, hospitals, and medical groups hire companies to find doctors who are willing to work locum tenens. 

The locum tenens agency connects Physicians who want to work locum tenens roles with practices that need temporary help. If you want to work locum tenens positions, going through a company or network will make the process much easier than attempting to secure locum tenens work on your own. 

The locum tenens agency will help with all of the logistics related to getting into locum tenens work, including providing contract negotiation, malpractice insurance, covering travel and housing costs, and helping you get the medical licensure you need if you plan to work out of state.

Can I work locum tenens while pursuing a fellowship?

It is possible to work locum tenens while pursuing fellowship training – in some situations. There are a number of factors that come into play and impact your ability to work locum tenens roles and pursue a fellowship. 

The time demands of the fellowship are a big factor that will impact whether or not you can work locum tenens roles in conjunction with your fellowship. The other major factor is the terms of the fellowship. 

Some fellowship programs simply do not permit participants to work outside of the fellowship. If you are considering a fellowship and want to work locum tenens positions, take a close look at the requirements and stipulations of the fellowship before you make a commitment to it or to a locum tenens assignment.

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Can I work locum tenens assignments while still in residency?

Being in a residency program is a unique time in your medical studies and career. You are a graduate of medical school but still in residency training before going into private practice, a hospital, or another type of practice. 

During the first years of residency training, you will not be able to work locum tenens positions. But a residency program may allow residents who are nearing the end of their residency to start working locum tenens assignments. 

If you are looking for part-time opportunities while still in your residency program, locum tenens assignments may be an option as you approach the end of your residency training. Oftentimes, a residency program that allows locum tenens work is the one that requires additional time spent in residency due to specialization. 

You will need to talk directly to the administration of your residency program to determine if you are eligible to work locum tenens while still in residency.

What are the benefits of working locum positions post-residency program?

Working locum tenens positions post-residency program can come with a number of benefits. Jobs for recent graduates of a residency program can be competitive, especially if you want to work in an area that has a large pool of physicians looking for work. You can work locum tenens assignments as you search for a position in your desired area – instead of compromising and taking a position that is not where you want to be.

If you simply do not know what to do post-residency, locum tenens positions are a way to explore different places and options. Another benefit of working locum tenens post-residency program is that it can provide you with extra financial support for medical school debt or to save for a future independent practice. 

Many Physicians pick up locum tenens work in addition to their permanent positions. The design of locum tenens positions allows you to control the amount of extra work you take on.

How long are typical assignments?

One of the things that draws Physicians to work locum tenens roles is the fact that there is no such thing as a "typical assignment." Each assignment is unique in what it requires and provides. Some Physicians choose to pick up on-call locum tenens assignments on the weekends as a way to make additional money for debt payoff or other goals. 

Other Physicians choose locum tenens assignments based on location. Conduct research to find the best fit for you. You can see the world or check out an area you are interested in relocating to by working a temporary locum tenens position. Locum tenens assignments can last for a few months or a few years. 

There are some locum tenens positions that have a known start and end date while others are more fluid with the timeframes. If you are in transition and cannot commit to a permanent position, a short-term locum tenens position can provide you with an income without tying you down. 

If you have a gap between when you graduate residency and begin your permanent position, locum tenens assignments can be your stopgap during the interim. Locum tenens assignments can also provide you with an extreme amount of flexibility if you are in a place where you do not want to or cannot commit to something long-term.

What specialties have a high demand for locum tenens?

From Podiatry to Plastic Surgery, virtually every medical specialty has locum tenens work available. But some specialties are in higher demand than others. The most valuable locum tenens specialties include Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, General Surgery, OBGYN, Internal Medicine, Anesthesiology, Psychiatry, and Cardiology.  

Many of these specialties are anticipating a staffing shortage of medical professionals in coming years and those willing to take locum tenens work will have a wide selection of job opportunities to choose from. Those willing to travel in order to serve patients in communities with an especially high need for specialty medicine can expect to earn the most.

What licenses and certifications are required for post-residency locum work?

Before starting locum tenens work post residency, Physicians must have board certification and licensure by state medical boards in the state in which they work and have full credentials for their medical facility. 

The particular requirements for board certification and licenses will vary for state medical boards. Most require an up-to-date CV, transcripts and examination scores, medical school degree, postgraduate certificates, and other relevant credentials from academic institutions. Credentials will require similar documents to be presented to practice or hospital administration.

Can a PA or NP work locum tenens directly following school?

A Physician Assistant (PA) or Nurse Practitioner (NP) may be able to find locum tenens work immediately after graduate school, but many locum tenens positions seek at least two years of professional experience. It is not necessarily impossible for PAs and NPs to work locum tenens positions following school, but it can be difficult without additional training or sufficient clinical experience.

There are a wide range of reasons why you may consider working locum tenens positions after residency including flexibility, balance, additional income, or a desire to travel. As you look at jobs for graduating residents, take some time to look into the option of locum tenens assignments. You may find it is the option that will provide what you need right after finishing residency and during times of transition throughout your medical career.

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