A locum tenens, literally translated as “one holding the place,” is a physician that temporarily substitutes for another physician. The concept of locum tenens has existed for decades in many major nations of the world, but the demand and prevalence of the profession has grown in recent years. For physicians who would prefer to work in a temporary position in order to gauge their affinity for its specific duties or location, working as a locum tenens is a convenient way to do so. It allows them to use their temporary work to make an educated decision about their career future. Also, those seeking work without the commitment of a full-time job, especially retirees or those planning to retire in the future, find the pursuit of a locum tenens position ideal. Working as a locum tenens between jobs is also a popular choice among physicians.
While most locum tenens are primary care physicians, the increasing need of specialists in many specific areas of healthcare has produced an increase in specialist locum tenens jobs. Also, while the job was initially intended as a temporary career option, many physicians elect long-term positions as a locum tenens. Locum tenens jobs constitute a notably competitive field as well.
Possibilities as a Locum Tenens
Many agencies offer locum tenens positions, including state, federal, international, and for-profit organizations, hospitals, academic healthcare sites, and physicians themselves. The most popular sources of such jobs, however, are federal agencies. Academic healthcare centers and state agencies tend to be relatively cost-efficient and provide the chance for physicians and aspiring physicians to expand their repertoire and increase their experience. Global Medical Staffing, an international organization based in Utah, United States, provides highly qualified locum tenens in the understaffed areas of the Caribbean, South Pacific, South Africa, and New Zealand. International locum tenens are generally required to have a minimum of four years of experience in postgraduate work, and mid-level practitioners and doctors of osteopathy are prohibited from such positions.
Locum tenens oportunities may be found on local government websites, in journals, using locum tenens agencies, or on various other job search websites. Location as well as duration of duties vary widely across different locum tenens positions as well. Health insurance is typically absent as a benefit because the title of locum tenens is an independent contracting position. Paid sick days are also not included, and locum tenens are susceptible to taxes.
Factors to Consider
Selecting a work location or agency is an important initial decision in the locum tenens job pursuit. When weighing options, the reason for a locum tenens need is a significant concern. It is important to ensure that the need for a locum tenens is a legitimate one; understaffed locations or individual physicians may need assistance, for example, or a long-term hiring process for a permanent physician may require a proxy. Duration of assignments are another factor, ranging from two days to six months. Short-term, local jobs are ideal for those testing their affinity for the field, and physicians seeking longer assignments may consider international positions. Considering compensation is also important, and generally locum tenens receive a daily flat rate and, when applicable, transportation and boarding. Field of interest is also important to consider, for locum tenens jobs are available in areas of emergency healthcare, anesthetic practices, obstetrics, etc. Because locum tenens can begin their work at any time, considering a specific date of availability is also crucial.
With the shortage of permanent physicians in certain medical specialties or in global geographic locations, locum tenens are gaining ground in the modern medical field. They offer the opportunity for older physicians to seek alternatives to full-time practice, younger physicians to broaden their experience and knowledge, and transferring and aspiring physicians to expose themselves to a specific practice before committing to it permanently. A diverse selection of opportunities exist for locum tenens, and finding a suitable position is both essential and rewarding.
Photo by Walt Stoneburner