In 2016, roughly 48,000 physicians did locum tenens work. That’s up from 44,000 in 2014, and 26,000 in 2002, per Staff Care’s annual survey. The survey also revealed that 94% of healthcare facility managers used locum tenens physicians during the last 12 months. Locum tenens physicians were mainly used to fill in until permanent doctors were found in certain specialties or to address staff turnover.
Another survey from CompHealth and Hanover Research found that one in five physicians have worked locum tenens. The survey also revealed that almost all physicians have a positive (55 percent) or neutral (42 percent) impression of locums.
Why has locum tenens work become increasingly attractive to physicians and providers?
One reason is being driven by the nationwide physician shortage. More physicians are also embracing careers as employees rather than within independent practices, and this employed physician model often increases physician turnover at facilities.
Forty years ago, locum tenens physicians were commonly called on to fill short-term gaps in staffing for a week or two. Today, they are in great demand for a wide variety of situations says Sean Ebner, president at StaffCare, a locum tenens staffing firm headquartered in Dallas, Ebner believes the real driver of demand for locum tenens docs is scarcity. "[It's] high, and it continues to get more severe," says Ebner.
In past years, locum tenens were typically generalists. Primary care physicians (family physicians, internists, and pediatricians) have long been the mainstay of locum tenens – and still are with 45% of health care facilities reporting their use in 2016. But staffing firms also recruit specialists for locum tenens positions. Hospitalists, behavioral health professionals, emergency medicine physicians and anesthesiology are among the top specialties in high demand for locums work today, but physicians in most specialties will find opportunities in the locum tenens arena. The need for nurse practitioners in the locum tenens arena is growing, too.
The rapid growth of telemedicine as a safe and cost-effective way to deliver healthcare is growing in the locum tenens industry, too. More and more temporary positions are being filled virtually, which means locum tenens can provide patient care without traveling or relocating. The age of physicians is affecting the locum tenens landscape, as well.
How can physician recruiters help candidates who want to locum get an edge for landing assignments? It pays to be proactive.
Get candidates licensed in states where they want to work. Approximately 16% of U.S. licensed physicians already hold a license in two states and countless more see the value holding a license in multiple states – but applying for license state-by-state is a big barrier. Start licensing candidates now and you’ll be able to accept a contract in another state and get placed more quickly.
Keep continuing medical education (CME) credits current. Doximity DocNews provides custom-curated news and an easy way to earn Category 1 CME at no cost.
Are you using Doximity Talent Finder to source great physicians and clinicians? Many candidates turn to locum tenens or telehealth opportunities first, which is why we’re hosting an upcoming webinar, The Passive Candidate & Part Time Employment: Recruiting Locum Tenens and TeleHealth. We invite you to sign up or check out our full 2017 webinar schedule and register today.