Page 1 of 2  

 Considering Locum Tenens? Eight Questions to Ask Before You Start

A growing number of physicians embark upon locum tenens—or temporary—assignments each year. They represent all age groups and specialties, from young physicians testing opportunities to experienced doctors edging into retirement. Temporary assignments allow physicians to practice in different settings, learn new methods, travel nationwide, and earn a competitive income. More than 30,000 physicians in all specialties practice on a locum tenens basis each year.

With more facilities building temporary slots into their medical staff plans, tens of thousands of locum tenens options are available throughout the country.

Physicians exploring locum tenens for the first time generally find it quite daunting until they clear up a few concerns. Beyond the typical fear of abandoning a familiar setting, many physicians are uncertain, or at least curious, about practical issues, professional acceptance and life on the road. Here are the questions doctors should ask before accepting a locum tenens assignment.

1. How do I start? Physicians may pursue advertised opportunities on their own as independent contractors or work through a locum tenens staffing company, also as independent contractors. Several staffing firms specialize in locum tenens assignments. You should call a variety of firms and get a feel for their approach and what they offer, then select one or more firms to deal with. Asking questions on the front end is crucial to a positive locum tenens experience. Qualifying a firm involves evaluating their approach to you as well as asking questions of them. For example, how much time does the recruiter spend exploring your background? The more they find out about you and your motivation for entering this line of work, the more likely they are to place you in a suitable situation. It is also important to evaluate their malpractice coverage.

2. Will I have to work in rural areas? Yes, if you so choose. As an independent contractor, however, you can choose to work where and when you want. Locum tenens physicians work all over the United States in every type of setting. Many opportunities exist in mid-size cities and rural communities. The appeal of temporary staffing, for many physicians, includes the opportunity to visit Alaska, or the Utah mountains, or coastal Carolina, without a long-term commitment. Positions also exist in towns you have never heard of or in settings that seem to define the word "rural." But facilities in cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle and New York employ temporary staff as well. Locum tenens physicians not only fill short-term staffing needs, they also replace vacationing doctors, support facilities during peak periods or try out positions that may become permanent. Settings vary and include solo practices, medical groups and hospitals. More adventurous doctors may opt for unique short-term assignments, ranging from cruise ships to correctional facilities. There are many reasons why and many locations where locum tenens physicians are needed.

3. How will I be compensated? That depends on whether or not you work through a staffing firm. Doctors who find temporary work on their own are paid directly by the contracting hospital, clinic or group. When working through the auspices of a staffing firm, however, the firm takes care of all compensation. Generally, locum tenens physicians receive a daily rate, plus extra pay for night or weekend work. Rates tend to vary depending upon the specialty, amount of overtime or ER coverage. Most firms process payment on a biweekly basis. Additional incentives usually include transportation to and from assignments, lodging, and a rental car—all free.

Next »