Provider-centric staffing for purpose-driven healthcare
Posted on
March 8, 2023

Locum 101: What is Locum Tenens and Other Frequently Asked Questions

As with many professions, healthcare organizations often need temporary help when there is an open position. In the patient care and healthcare staffing world, these positions are known as locum tenens. Rooted in Latin, the phrase “locum tenens” means “to hold the place of.” There are a wide variety of positions throughout the U.S. and worldwide that benefit from locum tenens Physician staffing.

The locum tenens Physician staffing process is not always well understood despite being very common. These frequently asked questions will help you understand: 

  • The locum tenens Physician staffing Process
  • What the locum tenens lifestyle entails
  • How Physicians can find available locum tenens positions

Who Can Work Locum Tenens Positions?

Locum tenens contracts are available for Physicians (MD, DO) and advanced practice clinicians Physician Assistants (PA) and Nurse Practitioners (NP). The length of an assignment for locum tenens positions can range from coverage for a single day to several months in every area of medicine and every specialty. Locum tenens positions filled by Physicians are a critical part of the healthcare workforce. Nurse Practitioners help ensure that patients get the care they need regardless of their location.

Could Working As  Locum Tenens Positions Become A Full-Time Career?

Even though the positions are temporary, Advanced Practice Providers like you can make a full-time career out of locum tenens assignments. The biggest challenge Advanced Practice Providers encounter when looking for locum tenens assignments is finding available openings and completing all the necessary steps to be ready for each job. These steps include tasks such as licensing, credentialing, and employee paperwork. Working with a trusted locum tenens agency that can provide Physician staffing services and building a solid relationship with a recruiter can be a great start. These agencies ensure that you can line up multiple locum tenens positions and create a full-time career.

Can I Work In A Locum Tenens Position Right After My Residency?

For Physicians, working a locum tenens position is possible right after your residency. Working locum tenens roles after residency depends on your specialty as a Physician or Advanced Practice Provider and the position. Some healthcare facilities and outpatient medical centers will hire Physicians during their last six months of residency, as long as they have a certain amount of clinical work experience.

Can Nurse Practitioners Or Physician Assistants Get Hired For Locum Tenens Roles Right Out Of School?

Most healthcare facilities and outpatient medical centers require two years of clinical work experience for a locum tenens PA or NP position. However, there may be some exceptions in specific locum tenens jobs. An agency known for providing Physician staffing services can help determine if you have enough experience for available locum tenens jobs.

Is Working Locum Tenens Positions Possible After I Retire?

Many healthcare providers transition from full-time work to retirement by working locum tenens roles. Locum tenens work is a great way to continue providing patient care while stepping back from the demands of working full-time as a Physician, PA, or NP. Physicians can find work in various specialties and locations with many different work schedules. In locum tenens positions, providers can continue caring for patients without the stress of a full-time workload.

What Is The Typical Length Of Locum Tenens Positions?

One of the benefits locum tenens providers have is the wide range and flexibility of available positions. Some positions are as short as a single shift or covering a week or two while another provider is out, while others last for several months. You can even work in a healthcare facility that has repeat assignments available during the same timeframe each year. The benefit that Physicians in these roles  have is that they can choose what assignment(s) they want.

Are There Some Physician Specialties In Higher Demand than Others?

There are locum tenens positions available for Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants in every specialty. You can find locum tenens roles in all types of facilities and geographic locations – from rural health clinics to hospitals in major cities. However, some locum tenens roles are usually in higher demand. High in demand specialties include:

  • Primary Care (Family Medicine And Internal Medicine)
  • Hospitalists And Emergency Physicians
  • Pediatricians
  • Psychiatrists And Behavioral Health Professionals
  • Radiologists
  • Nurse Practitioners And Physician Assistants In Multiple Specialties

Where Are Most Locums Positions Located?

Locum tenens positions are available in urban, suburban, and rural health clinics and hospitals throughout the United States and internationally. Most Physicians work with an agency that provides locum tenens staffing services to find available positions. When you work with an agency that provides locum tenens staffing services, you can let your recruiter know the specific place(s) you are interested in, and they can help you find open positions. Physicians working locum tenens roles typically only accept assignments they want, so they have complete control over where they work and live.

Will I Have To Move When Working Locum Tenens Assignments?

Positions are available in all 50 states and many places worldwide, so you can look for openings in your area if you prefer not to move. However, since these positions are temporary and there is no guarantee about when or where one will open up, the more you are willing to travel, the more opportunities will be available to you.

What Is The Pay Rate For Locum Tenens Positions? How Do Benefits And Taxes Work?

Most Physicians who work locum tenens assignments and go through an agency are independent contractors (1099 employees). You get paid through the agency, not the healthcare organization, and positions are typically paid at an hourly rate higher than full-time Physicians. An agency may also cover other costs associated with locum tenens positions, such as housing and travel while you are on assignment. Since you are an independent contractor, you usually will not get benefits like health insurance, life insurance, disability, or retirement. You are also responsible for paying your own personal and employment taxes when you get paid as an independent contractor.

Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners are usually hired as W-2 employees through the agency. You may be eligible for employee benefits offered by your locum tenens agency, and your paycheck will already have income taxes withheld. Talk to your agency with questions about available benefits and eligibility.

Will I Need To Get Licensed In Another State?

Whether you need to get licensed in another state depends on your position and the state’s requirements. In addition to providing Physician staffing services, your locum tenens agency should help you understand licensing requirements and assist you in completing this step if required.

Do I Have To Work With A Locum Tenens Staffing Agency?

You do not have to work with a locum tenens staffing agency to find a position. Online job boards exist, but many healthcare organizations work with locum tenens staffing agencies to fill jobs quickly. Working with a locums agency is also beneficial because not only do they provide Physician staffing services, but they can also keep track of contracts, paperwork, state licensing, and the credentialing or privileging processes required for each position. They help you complete these steps to start work as quickly as possible.

How Do I Find The Best Locum Tenens Agencies?

There are a lot of choices for locum tenens agencies. Finding the best locum tenens agencies requires some research to determine whether they can meet your needs for:

  • Assignments: Look for agencies with openings aligned with your personal interests, experience, and work preferences. Make sure they have enough openings to keep you as busy as you want.
  • Services: Agencies should offer you a basic level of services to help you find and start your position. They should also provide support throughout your contract, such as malpractice insurance, travel, credentialing, and employee paperwork.
  • Pay: Talk to the agency about the pay rate for locum tenens positions. You will find that some agencies pay much more than others, and some offer better services and benefits.

How To Start Working Locum Tenens Positions

The easiest way to start working locum tenens positions is to find an agency that can help you identify available positions based on your experience and preferences. There is high demand for these positions all over the U.S. and the world, and Physicians working in locum tenens roles fill an essential role in providing ongoing patient care. At an agency like Caliber, we specialize in helping Physicians, Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners find contracts where they can make a custom career plan that will further their career and personal aspirations. Learn more and get started by reaching out to Caliber today. Our experienced team of highly specialized recruiters is waiting to find you the perfect assignment.

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