All You Need to Know About Locum Tenens: A Guide for Physicians

As a physician, you’ve likely heard of locum tenens. A Latin phrase meaning “to be a substitute for, to hold one’s place of,” it’s a term commonly used in the healthcare industry that refers to doctors and certain medical specialists who take up temporary posts to cover staffing gaps. Back in the seventies, a university in Utah was awarded a grant with the goal of providing staffing services for rural clinics in the more medically underserved areas. It was so successful that hospital administrators started to call those working in locum for assistance.

A Doctor

A Doctor

Is the locum tenens lifestyle right for you?

Whether you’re a seasoned professional, a mid-career practitioner, or a resident, locum tenens can be beneficial to you. With the freedom and control it offers, it enables healthcare professionals to work as much or as little as they need. As a result, it’s much easier to achieve a healthy work-life balance than it otherwise would have. And this is the reason for the increasing popularity of lifestyle and why there are many who prefer to work with a physician recruiter instead of taking a much more traditional path with their career.

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The majority of agencies generally cover travel expenses, malpractice insurance, and lodging costs to minimize any worries. In addition, they try to learn as much about candidates to match them to ideal opportunities, handle the credentialing privileges, and address logistical concerns so that the assignments go off without any trouble. Some of the benefits include the following:

  • Working as a locum tenens practitioner enables physicians to sample or test-drive different practice settings and positions before they decide to settle on a more permanent role.
  • It helps doctors generate extra income, whether to pay off any existing debts at medical school or help in funding a private practice in the future.
  • Locum tenens healthcare providers generally enjoy more flexibility with their schedules. This means they have enough time for themselves. As a result, they can avoid getting burned out from the job.
  • Another advantage of working with a locum tenens agency is that it allows medical professionals to travel to different parts of the country to experience new settings. More importantly, it allows them to learn skills they would have missed out on and contemplate their careers before they make any commitments.
  • The bane of many medical specialists is administrative work. Some would even argue that it’s the worst thing about the profession. However, with locum tenens, admin tasks are kept at a minimum, so you won’t have to spend too much time on them.

Should you use a locum tenens company?

It’s always a good idea to work with a physician recruitment firm if you plan on becoming a locum tenens health provider. The reason for it is that they can do things for you, such as negotiate contracts with medical groups or hospitals and purchase malpractice insurance. They can also help you acquire a license to practice in new states, arrange for transportation, and secure housing. In other words, they’ll be able to make your transition into the lifestyle as painless as possible.

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How to evaluate a locum tenens agency

There are over a hundred companies providing temporary advanced practice or physician services. Most agencies maintain a high standard in the healthcare sector. However, you must still carefully evaluate the firm before you decide. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Consider the size of the agency and the amount of time that they’ve been operating. These factors are excellent indicators of how good a company is, after all.
  • Check if it has an excellent reputation with healthcare clients, physicians, and advanced practitioners. Be sure to look up online reviews too. Like any other business, they can be selective with the information they choose to share, and through the feedback and testimonials of other providers, they can
  • Ask for the types of assignments and locations available. In this way, you’ll know whether or not there are jobs that you’re interested in taking.
  • Request for references. The more hospitals and medical organizations they’re affiliated with, the more options you’ll have to choose from when you start getting assignments from the agency.

Practices to manage your locum tenens company

Having the services of a locum tenens company at your disposal can be advantageous. Here are a few pieces of advice when it comes to working with physician recruiters:

  • If you’re starting out, stick with one recruiter first and work on building a relationship with the agency.
  • Give your chosen agency as much information about you as you can. The more they know about you, the easier it’ll be for them to find ideal placements for you.
  • Ensure that your paperwork is in order so you can immediately pass the necessary files when needed.
  • Retain your references for at least a year. Reach out to potential references and ask them if you can use them as such.
  • Always have an extra copy of documentation like your COI. You never know when you might need them.

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Work on your CV

Your resume will give your recruitment agency a good idea of your strengths as a healthcare professional. Therefore, you must always make sure that it’s accurate and updated. The following are some tips on how to prepare an eye-catching CV.

  • Ensure that the first page includes all essentials.
  • Include all locum tenens and permanent employment histories.
  • Keep all information regarding your licenses as current as possible.
  • List your areas of expertise and specialization.
  • Check for grammatical and typographical errors.

How do you begin as an independent contractor?

Even if you’ll be working through a physician recruitment agency, you’ll still be classified as a contractor. So your agency may not be withholding your payroll taxes. Therefore, you’ll have to address it yourself. You’ll also have to obtain life, disability, and health insurance. Moreover, you need to consider that you’ll only generate income if you’re working, and you’ll have to cover your sick and personal days.

  • Meet with your accountant before anything.
  • Allocate finances towards your tax payments.
  • Have a financial cushion for emergencies.
  • Keep your finances organized.

What to expect as a locum tenens practitioner

The idea of working as a locum tenens practitioner might be exciting, but it can also be daunting and filled with uncertainty. To help ease your worries, here are some of the things to expect when working in locums.

  • Before you arrive at the location you’ll be working in, the locum tenens agency will ensure that you have what you require for a straightforward onboarding experience. They’ll orient you about the healthcare facility or organization you’ll be working for and familiarize you with everything else. Generally, they’re supported by assignment coordinators who work where the assignment is and will guide you so your first day is successful.
  • Healthcare facility. No matter where you’re assigned to work, orientation will generally take up hours to days, depending on the scope of your responsibilities. It should cover everything, from parking instructions and emergency contacts to how you can use their EMR system. However, keep in mind that even with all the support, you may not get the information you require, so you must learn to ask questions.

Get the help you require

All locums practitioners should always feel comfortable when it comes to addressing concerns with their contact point at their workplace. However, you mustn’t hesitate to connect with the physician staffing firm if you’re unable to get the things you need from the healthcare organization or facility. More often than not, they serve as liaisons between the provider and facility. And you’ll underuse the agency if you don’t ask them for help.

General questions on locum tenens work

You probably have some questions about locum tenens work. And in this section, we’ll cover some of the general inquiries about the lifestyle. Continue reading to know more.

  • Does it exist for all specialties? There’s a good chance that you’ll find a physician recruitment agency that caters to all of the major specialties. As long as you receive soliciting emails, it’s likely that the recruiter has assignments for you.
  • How does the salary work? The one thing to keep in mind is that you’ll be paid similar to independent contractors because you technically are one. Taxes won’t automatically be taken from your salary, and you’ll have to do it yourself. Doctors who work shifts similar to hospitalists and primary care get hourly rates. Due to this, it’s relatively easy to do the numbers on your salary. All you need to do is multiply the hours you’ve worked with your hourly rate.

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Conclusion

It’s easy to see why physicians and advanced medical practitioners are shifting towards locum tenens. With all of the perks it has—be it scheduling control, extra income, minimal admin duties, and travel freedom—practitioners are able to achieve a much better balance of their personal and professional lives and avoid burning themselves out in the process. So if you’re even remotely interested in the prospect, give it shot.

References

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12755252/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684325/

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