Locum Tenens – is it the right fit for me?

Locum tenens positions, which involve temporary or short-term physician assignments, can offer several benefits for new graduates. 

Why do hospitals and healthcare facilities contract locum tenens physicians rather than having part-time and full-time physicians filling the void?

Naturally, hospitals and healthcare facilities deal with staffing shortages for different reasons such as vacations, maternity leaves, and unexpected absences. Locum tenens physicians fill the gap by covering and ensuring continuity of care for patients. This is particularly important in areas where the demand for healthcare services exceeds the supply available of permanent physicians, such as in underserved or rural communities. Such communities often struggle to recruit and maintain full staffing of permanent physicians for all of its needs. 

Additionally, the nature of having contract physicians allows hospitals and health systems flexibility in contracting assignments for short terms, extended periods, or even as-needed. It helps them meet the staffing demands without committing to hiring permanent staff, which comes with a much larger commitment as an employer. That benefit comes into play often during times where the hospital or healthcare system is looking to lessen the burden of its current employees. 

Because of the lessened commitment that comes with locum tenens physicians, hospitals and healthcare systems have a wider net of specialists that are available to them. They can recruit specialists to cover specific departments or procedures during times of shortages or if there is no permanent specialist available. 

What are the benefits of locum tenens positions?

  1. Flexibility: Locum tenens positions provide flexibility in terms of schedule and location. As a new graduate, this flexibility allows you to explore different practice settings, specialties, and geographic areas before committing to a permanent job. It gives you the opportunity to gain exposure to diverse patient populations, healthcare systems, and work environments to see what the best fit is for you and what environments allow you to thrive.
  2. Experience and skill development: Locum tenens assignments expose you to a variety of clinical scenarios, which can enhance your clinical skills and decision-making abilities. Working in different facilities and alongside various healthcare professionals allows you to adapt to different protocols, technology, and patient populations, contributing to your professional growth and development. The added exposure increases your value as a professional and gives you more bargaining power in future job searches.
  3. Networking and professional connections: Locum tenens positions allow you to build a professional network by working in different healthcare settings and collaborating with diverse teams of healthcare providers. This network can be valuable for future job opportunities, recommendations, and ongoing professional support.
  4. Income and financial stability: Locum tenens positions typically offer competitive compensation, especially those that are in rural or underserved communities. As a new graduate, it can provide you with income stability while you continue your job search for a more permanent position. It allows you to start earning and managing your finances while gaining valuable experience, and without having a gap in paychecks.
  5. Work-life balance: Locum tenens positions often offer the flexibility to choose your assignments and schedule, allowing you to achieve a better work-life balance. You can control when and where you work, enabling you to take breaks or plan personal activities as needed. This type of arrangement is often especially beneficial to those who have other obligations, such as elderly parents, young children, or a spouse with a more demanding job.
  6. Exposure to different practice settings: Locum tenens assignments may expose you to a wide range of practice settings, including hospitals, clinics, rural or underserved areas, and academic institutions. This exposure helps you understand different healthcare systems, patient demographics, and practice models, allowing you to make more informed decisions about your future career path. You may find what settings you are most interested in, and what settings stunt your career growth from where you want it to go.
  7. Professional growth and adaptability: Locum tenens work requires adaptability and the ability to quickly acclimate to new environments. There can be less predictability and comfort in knowing your environment and peers with locum tenens work. This experience can foster resilience, flexibility, and problem-solving skills, which are valuable attributes in a physician’s career.
  8. Potential for permanent job opportunities: Locum tenens positions can sometimes lead to permanent job opportunities. As you work in different facilities and make professional connections, you may come across organizations that are seeking permanent physicians. Your performance and positive reputation during your locum tenens assignments can position you well for these opportunities. Additionally, it is important to note that hospitals and healthcare facilities utilize locum tenens positions as a recruitment strategy. They use the time to assess your compatibility with them before offering a permanent position, so they use the time to assess your clinical skills, cultural fitness, and work ethic.

It’s important to note that while locum tenens positions offer numerous benefits, they may also come with some challenges, such as frequent travel, adjusting to new systems and protocols, and potential gaps in benefits such a health insurance. Considering your career goals and personal circumstances will help determine if locum tenens work is the right fit for you.