7 questions every doctor asks about locum tenens

When it comes to locum tenens, doctors have a lot of questions. Maybe you even have some of your own. But first, let me ask you a few:

Did you know that there are more than 50,000 doctors working locum tenens in the U.S.? Or that 90% of health care facilities use locum tenens each year? Or that 21% of residents choose to work locum tenens right out of college?

Despite its growing popularity, many doctors still find locum tenens to be a mystery. So, I thought I’d answer a few questions we get regularly.

How do locum tenens doctors get paid?

Great question. While some doctors choose to go it alone and work directly with facilities, most use a staffing agency. A staffing agency offers many benefits, especially since they typically handle pay, benefits, and negotiations with the facility. In those cases, pay comes from the staffing agency. This is also good if you plan on working with multiple facilities. Your relationship with the staffing agency stays nice and tidy no matter where you work.

Ok, but how much can I make?

Money talks. For locum tenens, how much you make depends on specialty, location, and demand. While I can’t tell you exactly how much you’ll make, I can tell you that locums docs typically command higher rates than permanent staff physicians. According to a study by CHG Healthcare, locum tenens physicians make on average $32.45 more per hour than full-time doctors. When you factor that a reputable staffing agency will negotiate on your behalf, including pay enhancers like per diem payments, mileage reimbursement, and shift premiums — not to mention cover travel expenses, living expenses, car rentals, and malpractice insurance while on assignment— most locum tenens doctors find it’s a great way to earn extra money or save for a rainy day.

Where are assignments available?

Would it be too simple of me to say everywhere? We help fill jobs for large hospitals, small clinics, government agencies, rural communities, in all 50 states. If there’s a place you want to work, chances are you’ll be able to find something there.

How long do assignments last?

Assignments can be as short as a weekend to several months. The good thing is that you can choose when, where, and how long you work. You’re in control to take jobs that fit your goals, lifestyle, or interest.

What is the workload like?

Locum tenens doctors work just as hard as they would if they were there full time. What most locums docs find, however, is that they feel liberated not having to deal with office politics, paperwork, and team drama. They often find they have a little more time to actually work with patients and therefore, report higher levels of satisfaction.

Who handles my travel logistics?

Like I said before, a reputable physician staffing agency will handle the details for you while on assignment. For instance, we cover travel expenses, book flights, find accommodations, arrange rental cars, and more. Best of all, you keep the travel points.

How do I get an assignment?

I realize I’m partial here, but I definitely recommend using a staffing agency. The benefits are massive. If you’d like a second opinion (or a first), talk to a locum tenens doctor and find out what they do. That’s where I recommend you start. Find an agency. Connect with a consultant who specializes in your field. Tell your consultant what you’re looking for and what you want. They’ll do the job searching for you and send you jobs that match. Then, complete an application. Your consultant will work with the facility and present you for an interview. If everything’s good, all you have to do is accept. Your consultant will arrange credentials and privileges as well as arrange travel and accommodations.

Every day I’m blown away by the good work our locums physicians do. I’m proud to be a part of such an important, albeit, slightly less understood part of our health care system. If you still have questions or want to see if locum tenens fits into your career and lifestyle goals, contact a staffing agency. It may be the answer you’ve been looking for.

Bill Heller is president, Weatherby Healthcare.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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