7 Things To Consider Before Doing Locum Tenens Work

Updated on April 23, 2021

Since the 1970s, the locum tenens work placements have offered relief to hospitals in dire need of temporary workers. For decades, physician shortages have plagued the healthcare sector, with doctor deficiencies reaching at least 30,000 at any given time, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. This shortage is driven by an aging population, as well as an increasing population of retiree-physicians.   

Many medical professionals noticed that temporary work placement is the best fit for their lifestyle and personality. Beyond these factors, though, there are other important issues to consider.  

Whether a retiree-physician or a young doctor, here are some things that you should consider to determine if becoming a freelance physician is right for you: 

  1. Your Goals 

You should have a clear objective before signing the work agreement. Do you want to increase your earning opportunities by accepting this assignment on top of your permanent job? Are you planning to take your family with you and eventually relocate to the state where you’re assigned? Is this going to give you the promotion you’re eyeing for?       

Locum tenens is highly flexible, and work assignments could last for as short as one day to as long as one year.    

  1. Pros and Cons 

Different staffing agencies offer different benefits. But most of them take charge of travel expenses, accommodation, licensing, and other basic fees.   

Beyond these offers, one has to look at the overall advantages of working under temporary work arrangements. These include freedom and flexibility over your schedule, enhancing clinical skills, travel opportunities, additional income, and more time with your family.   

However, not everything is perfect in this arrangement. For one, you may have to make life-changing adjustments, spend more time away from your family, and fear of not having enough jobs.  

For a definitive guide about this work placement, check out the Locum Tenens Guy.      

  1. Adaptability 

Being the new kid on the block, you’ll be expected to hit the ground running and learn new things at a fast pace. A new medical facility will likely have new hospital patient management systems that you have to be familiar with. Additionally, you’ll have to learn the new working modalities, culture, as well as adapt to the personalities of your new colleagues.     

If you’re not ready to get out of your comfort zone, this may not be ideal for you.    

  1. Terms of Reference 

Loosely, the terms of reference describe the purpose and structure of a project. In the employment sector, it’s also called the job description.  

Ideally, the job description or terms of reference should be able to explain why hiring temporary employees is the best option for a specific medical facility. From there, you can gauge whether the position is aligned with your objective. 

Don’t just rely on what you read about the job, though. In your interview with the hiring manager, ask for the scope of your practice to determine whether it appeals to you or not. 

There are various policies in every state when it comes to the scope of work of a healthcare professional, so you may want to check that out, too.   

  1. Clinical Competency AdobeStock 174937901 scaled

Physicians working under locum tenens arrangements should be prepared to work and think fast. There should be no time wasted for long orientations and briefings because the hospital is likely in dire need of hands-on physicians who have ample experience in a specific specialization. This means it may not be a good choice for new doctors who have yet to earn more clinical experience.  

If you’re a seasoned doctor, this may work well for you.   

  1. Compensation  

Ideally, your payment rates, bonuses, overtime pay, and any expenses covered by the staffing agency are reflected in your contract. If you can wait until then, ask your agency about the rates verbally, while waiting for the contract to be drafted.    

Rates for a locum tenens healthcare worker is typically higher per day compared to the daily rate of permanent workers in the same medical facility. A locum tenens worker is an independent contractor and not an employee of a staffing agency. Hence, this professional is in charge of paying state and federal taxes on their own.    

  1. Your Current Situation 

If you want to spend more time with your family, working part-time as a locum tenens physician may be a good option, especially if money isn’t an issue. Otherwise, if you’re single and want to build your career (and wealth) while you still can, get a part-time assignment on top of your permanent work.  

Final Thoughts  

Currently, an estimated 40,000 healthcare providers are working under locum tenens assignments in various states. With the insufficiencies not being addressed anytime soon, the demand for locus tenens workers is projected to rise.  

If you’re a medical professional thinking of getting a locum tenens gig, consider the factors discussed in this article so you can come up with a smart decision.