The No-BS Guide to Locum Tenens & How it Works - Locumpedia (2023)

The No-BS Guide to Locum Tenens in 2021

Part 1:

In this part: What locum tenens medical practice is; how this way of practicing works; and why, at various stages of your career, you might want to consider it.

The No-BS Guide to Locum Tenens & How it Works - Locumpedia (1)

Introduction

A little-known fact for a lot of patients checking into a hospital for the first time: Sometimes hospitals and other healthcare facilities use temporary or ‘fill-in’ physicians, otherwise known as “locum tenens doctors.”

As super-human as many of them become in years like 2020, doctors and nurses sometimes leave their employers for whatever reason. Maybe a significant other took a job elsewhere, or a family situation demands their full attention. Or perhaps the internal politics proved untenable.

Let’s face it. To succeed in any business today — especially in healthcare — you need a “Plan B.”

Enter locum tenens.

Yeah, Yeah. We get it. No hospital or healthcare facility wants to acknowledge using “temp” clinicians. But how many patients, many of whom are using paid time off (PTO) to see a doctor, would prefer to reschedule or go elsewhere if their designated doc is unavailable for some reason unforeseen when the appointment was made?

‘Care continuation’ is one of the sometimes-life-and-death reasons the locum tenens industry evolved in the first place. Locum tenens clinicians are willing to be there for patients when staff or routinely contracted providers can’t or won’t.

For that — and for other considerations such as their willingness to put their private lives on hold, or to travel across the country, risking their health, during a pandemic — they generally get paid better on an hourly basis than their permanently employed counterparts. However, locum tenens doctors are “free agents” placed there for a certain number of days, weeks or months — and usually without health insurance or other benefits included with most full-time, staff positions.

Of course, not every assignment is a bowl of cherries, nor is every clinician perfectly matched to every assignment. Also, sometimes even the best-laid plans get changed at the last minute. That’s why flexibility is both a benefit and a requirement for working “locums.”

With that said, let’s break down the bare essentials of locum tenens medical practice.

In Part 1 of Locumpedia’s No-BS Guide to Locum Tenens, we’ll cover:

  • What locum tenens medical practice is
  • How this 40-something-year-old way of practicing works
  • Why, at various stages of your career, you might want to consider it
  • The disadvantages of locum tenens

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“Locum tenens” is a fancy Latin name for a “temporary physician.” The Latin term literally means “a place (“locum”) holder” (“tenens”). Roughly 6% of US physicians — or about 52,000 of them — chose to work this way in 2019, according to StaffCare’s“2020 Survey Of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends,”published in January 2020.

That survey also “indicates that 85% of hospitals, medical groups, and other healthcare facilities used locum tenens doctors in 2019, primarily to maintain services until permanent physicians are found and to fill gaps caused by turnover.”

Granted, this is a fairly high percentage of healthcare outlets. (Considering the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, it might have been higher if the question had been asked a year later.) However, it’s lower by about 9% than what was reported from2016 survey responses(94%), but noticeably higher than the 74% indicated in 2012.

Bottom line: Practicing locum tenens has become more widely accepted over the past decade or two for reasons like:
  • Even healthcare organizations struggling financially in the aftermath of COVID-19 still have patients to care for.
  • In today’s fast-paced world, only the nimble survive. Locum tenens offers both physicians and facilities a way to become more agile.
  • The “new normal,” ushered in by a worldwide pandemic, proved that medical professionals will answer the call for help, even at inopportune times or inconvenient places. Sometimes locum tenens implies a calling higher than just “holding a place.”
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“Locum tenens” is a fancy Latin name for a “temporary physician.” The Latin term literally means “a place (“locum”) holder” (“tenens”). Roughly 6% of US physicians — or about 52,000 of them — chose to work this way in 2019, according to StaffCare’s“2020 Survey Of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends,”published in January 2020.

A locum tenens staffing agency gets paid a percentage of the assignment’s agreed-upon cost by a healthcare facility for identifying, communicating with, vetting, contracting with, delivering, and compensating the physician for that facility as efficiently as possible.

In other words, the locum tenens staffing agency is the “middle man,” who gets paid a percentage of the assignment’s agreed-upon cost by a healthcare facility for identifying, communicating with, vetting, contracting with, delivering, and compensating the physician for that facility as efficiently as possible.

For the fee it earns (which seems generous — let’s be honest, but more on that later), the staffing agency serves as a one-stop-shop for the client facility, assisting heavily in the facility’s credentialing process and arranging the physician’s assignment-related transportation, housing and professional liability coverage (PLI, or medical malpractice insurance).

Bottom line for the doctor (or reasonable facsimile thereof): it’s pretty much like “temping” or contracting your services to employers in other fields.

HOWEVER, because of associated hurdles — like:

  • Proving you spent a decade of your life getting educated and trained,
  • Becoming licensed in each state or territory in which you want to provide services, and
  • Validating your competence to hold other people’s health in your hands

— the path from signup to service point is just a bit more complicated.

Put more optimistically, it’s a way for a physician — or an advanced healthcare practitioner like a physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner or a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) — to make good money without committing to a facility long-term, creating financial entanglements, or paying for her/his own medical malpractice insurance.

For those less-materially motivated, industry lore has it that locum tenens providers enable some 20 million people a year to see a doctor, especially those living in rural America. And that can be pretty gratifying — and lucrative, at least for the right doctor in the right place at the right time.

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The No-BS Guide to Locum Tenens & How it Works - Locumpedia (4)

Let’s provide some typical answers in the form of a rapid-fire list of questions. Ready?

  • Are you fiercely independent or famously indecisive — perhaps not ready to commit long-term to any person or place?
  • Or are you a bit of an idealist who’s encountered enough disillusioned or disgruntled doctors to wonder if this is your destiny after a decade of education and training (along with the accompanying student-loan debt and high expectations)?
  • At mid-career (or later), are you fed up with where your years of hard work and sacrifice have gotten you to this point?
  • Or perhaps you find yourself in limbo and longing for a change of pace to re-energize — or a reason to ‘get outta Dodge?’
  • What if you’re ready to work less, but not quite ready to retire?
  • Or maybe you’ve spent most of your life in one geographic area and you yearn to learn about new locales.
  • More realistically for those with “family ties,” is your significant other ‘sick and tired’ of your coming home complaining about what some patient or administrative jerk did to disrupt your day?

If you can identify with any of the scenarios above, perhaps a “walk on the wild side” of locum tenens medical practice is just what the doctor ordered.

Beyond your personal reasons for wanting to “shake things up,” why bother trying locum tenens?

Writing for the Advanced Practice Provider Association of America (APPAA), Kathryn Martin, PA-C, lists four primary reasons:

1. Travel

“There are options to work on the other side of the country, or one county over,” Martin notes. It’s a way to experience a new place differently than as a tourist, offering a chance to “test-drive” areas where you might want — or need — to live.

In his PhysicianOnFire (PoF) biography, “PoF” Leif Dahleen writes, “My numerous locum tenens stints (before, in between, and sometimes during my “permanent” jobs) took me to hospitals in southwest Florida; central Wisconsin; northern Minnesota; Pittsburgh, PA; and many parts of Michigan from near the Indiana border to the UP (Upper Peninsula).”

In a post discussing the pros and cons of locum tenens work, Dahleen notes, “You can also find work in Australia, New Zealand, and other far-flung international destinations. A U.S. medical license is quite valuable globally.”

Although this certainly doesn’t happen with every locum tenens assignment, Dahleen boasts, “My experience with locum tenens began the Monday after I finished residency. I practiced exclusively as a locums doc for nearly two years, and was offered a job in just about every place I worked.”

Echoing PoF’s experience, CompHealth shares pulmonologist Dr. Thomas O’Mara’s story about a locum tenens assignment in Boise, Idaho, that began in March 2020 — fairly early in the COVID-19 pandemic. “ ‘We didn’t know a lot about COVID-19,’ O’Mara says. ‘How it really spread, how dangerous it was. We didn’t know what to do or what to expect. How are we going to deal with massive surges? What if we all start dying? There was just the stress in not knowing.’ ”

O’Mara was surprised to find the expected wave of coronavirus patients didn’t happen at St. Luke’s in Boise. He described it as “not quite like what you’d expect based on what you hear on the news.” Although he’d agreed to a schedule of two weeks on, one week off, during which he could return home to New York, he and his wife decided it was probably best to just stay put during the “off” weeks to play it safe. That meant he was able to fill in when another scheduled locums physician couldn’t get to Boise.

He noted that, although there has been a learning curve in dealing with COVID-19, he and his colleagues have become much wiser and more efficient in their approach to treating coronavirus patients over time.

Ultimately, his performance during the assignment led the hospital to offer him a full-time position — one that allows him the flexibility to work what’s considered a full-time job without uprooting his entire family. “I really, really like working at St. Luke’s,” O’Mara says. “They’ve treated me so decently…I am still able to go out and work for a couple of weeks and come home for a couple of weeks. It’s considered a full-time night position, so it’s exactly what I was doing as a locums. No clinic, no daytime. I really like working nights.”

Of course, not all locum tenens assignments result in full-time employment, by any means. But there are quite a number of positive stories.

International Travel

Posting less than a year ago onKevin MD.com, John Gallehr, MD, shared an experience from his second extended-stay locum tenens assignment in New Zealand with his family. He told the story of his most memorable day.

“It began with our three teenage sons waking up early to surf in the South Pacific Ocean. Once we had our fill of tropical paradise, we jumped in the car and drove a few hours to the local ski resort, where we found 10 feet of snow.

“The transition from sunrise surfing to afternoon skiing felt like something out of a fairy tale, but it was the very real charmed life we were living in one of the most beautiful countries on earth.”

Gallehr was working in New Zealand as a child psychologist. The point of his blog post was that a physician’s taking his or her family along was key to ‘traveling doctor’ success. “How is it possible to have such amazing adventures in another country with my family while maintaining a very busy and high-stress job? The answer is locum tenens,” he said.

2. Try It Before You Buy It

Often locum tenens clinicians provide temporary coverage for a permanent position a clinic or hospital wants to fill. Maybe patient volume grew beyond the staff’s bandwidth — or the facility expects to expand. From the place-holding provider’s perspective, it’s a chance to check out not just the location, but also a practice setting where he or she might want to work permanently.

“Working locum tenens allowed me to work in a wide variety of places and practices both large and small, urban and rural,” PoF Dahleen says. “I had a chance to be assigned to work hands-on in one room every day, and to supervise three or four. I became more well-rounded and adaptable, and I had a chance to ‘try before you buy,’ learning what kind of practice best suited me.

“If you are just starting out, working in a few places as a locum can gain you valuable experience and help you find a practice that works for you. Fortunately, many of the places using locums would welcome the full-time services of a capable physician, and your favorite locums job could potentially transition into something more long-lasting.”

Reality Check

However, Suzi Richards, now president and founder ofBest Locum Tenens, LLC, cautions against selling the ‘test-drive’ benefit of locum tenens. In a March 22, 2020, blog post onKevinMD.com, Richards takes issue with the permanent-placement fee most locum tenens agencies charge if a facility — or its affiliates, or any healthcare facility within a certain-mile radius of the facility last placing the locum tenens clinician — wants to hire the ‘fill-in physician’ full-time.

“Some agencies refer to this as a permanent-recruitment fee or a conversion fee. It’s essentially in place to cover lost revenue when the locum fees end and a viable locum resource is lost,” Richards said. “It’s meant to be a deterrent in most cases, and these fees can be $10,000 to $40,000 or more, depending on the specialty and other factors. Without this ‘deterrent,’ hiring a locum provider might even prove less expensive than paying the locum fees.”

Countering that argument, Tim Hand, CEO ofInterim Physicians, LLC, promotes and justifies the conversion fee as an effective way to ensure that facilities don’t use locum tenens agencies merely as a contingent search firm for their full-time hiring needs.

“A lot of work goes into finding and delivering the right locum provider to a facility. And there are two different physician mindsets when it comes to accepting a full-time position with a facility versus working locum tenens for them,” says Hand. “Physicians working locum tenens don’t want to feel pressured into accepting any position as a precondition of helping out a facility in a time of need.”

As proof of that, he points to the fact that less than 1% of Interim Physicians’ $37+ million in revenue is attributable to conversion fees.

Tim Hand, CEO of Interim Physicians, LLC, promotes and justifies the permanent-recruitment conversion fee as an effective way to ensure that facilities don’t use locum tenens agencies merely as a contingent search firm for their full-time hiring needs. “A lot of work goes into finding and delivering the right locum provider to a facility. And there are definitely two different physician mindsets when it comes to accepting a full-time position with a facility versus working locum tenens for them,” he says.

3. Income

While APPAA’s Martin said locum tenens compensation is “comparable to the norm for that position and location,” many times the clinician makes a higher hourly or daily rate than his on-staff colleagues. On its “locumstory.com” website,CompHealthindicates physicians willing to take locum tenens assignments can make between $90 and $300 hourly, depending on specialty demand, the assignment’s location and other factors.

Physician TycoonCatherine Carroll, MD, says the earning potential is “up to 50% above the average pay rate for a full-time physician.”

Physician Validation

On the blog he started three years ago, Vlad Dzhashi, MD,The LocumTenensGuy, a hospitalist who quit his full-time job and started working locum tenens in 2014, suggests, “Think about it: with 15 shifts a month on average, you can make as little as $280K/year with $130/hr, or as much as $430K/year at $200/hr.”

Check out Vlad’sblogand podcast: ‘The Guy’ offers “real-life numbers” and, more recently,coachingto help prevent his fellow docs from making the same mistakes he did when he quit his full-time job and started ‘the locums life.’

Ditch the Debt

Speaking of income as a motivator for locum tenens work, Dzhashi calls locum tenens a “radical solution to crush your student debt FAST.”

In a blog post fromAugust 2019, he wrote, “The obvious reason is that it pays better than a permanent job, especially for somebody fresh from residency.”

Dzhashi offers a step-by-step guide for paying off student loan debt within a year or two by working locum tenens assignments, preferably either straight out of residency or within a few years of graduating. He suggests this because:

  • “You still have the spending habits of a resident.
  • You have fewer obligations (family, mortgage, etc.).
  • It’s easier to adopt a ‘nomadic’ lifestyle.”

Dzhashi tells the story of a young physician he encountered during a locum assignment who “plunged into locum tenens as soon as his residency ended” and completely paid off his student loans within a year.

“If you’re currently practicing medicine and are already working full-time, you could still consider adding locums work to your schedule. During a week of vacation, you could choose to work a temporary assignment,” internist Carroll writes. “If you have a debt you’re trying to tackle or a vacation you’re saving for, adding a week or two of locums work will allow you to reach your savings goal much faster.”

Case in point: in a recent“Anesthesia Success”podcastLocumTenens.comAssociate Vice President Kyle Hadley described an anesthesiologistwho took a house-call obstetrics shift for six months and paid off his student loans in a year.

4. Flexibility

“When working temporary assignments, you can take time off in between, and the length of that time off is up to you!” APPAA’s Martin said. “Sometimes there’s also flexibility on the length of an assignment, such as a 6-month minimum with potential to extend to one year. And if doing locums full-time isn’t a good fit, moonlighting as a locum some place nearby could also be possible.”

PoF Dahleen writes, “As a locums doc, you can choose to work as little or as much as you like. You can work in major metropoles or podunk mountain towns. You can make like a schoolteacher and take your summers off.”

Note: Healthcare employers’ compensation packages generally include the option of employer-subsidized health insurance, a benefit locum tenens work doesn’t provide.

Flexibility = Time Mastery

Locum tenens hospitalist Dzhashi,The LocumTenensGuy, notes, “Flexibility is the main reason why I’ve been practicing locum tenens, since it allows me to create a schedule that fits my lifestyle. It feels great being able to decide for myself if I’m willing to make a nice lump sum in the next several months or to take off and travel. I know I can do it without asking anyone’s permission – this is the greatest thing of all!”

Dzhashi acknowledges a permanent hospitalist schedule, like the one he left in Washington State to do locum tenens, offers greater flexibility and perceived time off than, say, doing outpatient work. Still, “locum tenens takes it to a whole new level and makes you a true master of your time.”

He describes the schedule he works around his kids’ school breaks: “I tend to work more in the spring and fall when I make probably close to 70 percent of my annual income. I schedule fewer shifts during the winter and pretty much take the whole summer off. Since the weather in the Pacific Northwest is extremely depressing in winter, I take my family to Hawaii for about a month to recharge and relax.”

Scan thelocum tenens agencywebsites and you’ll find dozens of similar stories.

On September 11, 2020,Weatherby Locumshighlighted a gastroenterologist who, after closing his 26-year practice, decided to hit the road with locum tenens. “I could consolidate as much work as possible into a 20-day span, then be home for about ten days a month,” Robert Brenner, MD, said. “My priority is to make as much as I can in as short a time as possible and still have time to go home and be with my family.”

List Edits

Inhislist of reasonsfor choosing a locum tenens job, MedsNews.com Chief Medical Writer Claudio Butticè, PharmD (a pharmacist), replaces “travel” in PA Martin’s list with ‘gaining more contacts and experience.’ He observes, “Since each facility that you work in will offer a new experience and contacts that you can learn from, you’ll grow much faster in your chosen field than you would have otherwise.”

Physician TycoonCarroll calls it “the ability to network.” She writes, “While your primary goal is seeing your patients, one of the many advantages is working for a practice or hospital type you would otherwise not have the chance to experience. You will meet other physicians and staff members and develop a strong network of physician peers around the country.”

Physician Tycoon Carroll says, “One of the many advantages of locum tenens is working for a practice or hospital type you would otherwise not have the chance to experience. You will meet other physicians and staff members and develop a strong network of physician peers around the country.”

Butticèadds a fifth reason for working locum tenens: ‘avoiding administrative work.’ Noting the nonclinical aspect of medical practice often keeps patient engagement low, he writes, “by working as a locum, there’s no need to get involved with the business side” of providing healthcare.

A practicing internist in Southern California, Carroll asks, “Can you imagine a day in your life as a physician where you’re not worried about administrative meetings? It’s almost impossible to believe, but when you’re a locum tenens physician, you can concentrate exclusively on caring for your patients…Your job as a locum tenens physician is to accept the assignment, show up to the office, and treat your patients to the best of your ability.”

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This wouldn’t be a “no-BS” guide if we didn’t address the “cons” of working locum tenens as well as the “pros.”

“As idyllic as all of the patient care, flexibility, and higher pay may sound, working locum tenens isn’t rainbows and unicorns every day,”Physician Tycoon Carroll writes. “Like any professional setting, there are multiple challenges. The question becomes whether or not these potential drawbacks outweigh the benefits of this type of work.”

In fact, in a July 23, 2018, blog post titled, “Locum Tenens Work: What Is It and Is It Right For Me?” Carroll lists one moredisadvantage than she lists advantages. Here’s her list:

1. Lack of Stability

“This same type of work which offers you amazing flexibility also comes with a lack of stability,” Carroll says. “You won’t always have work lined up. You could end up waiting months for your credentialing to be finalized. The hospital that hired you may decide to extend an offer to another physician on a full-time basis and suddenly cancel your contract.”

Carroll notes that while it doesn’t happen often, you should be aware that last-minute changes do happen. “Working at multiple sites can minimize the possibility of being out of work for any significant period of time,” she suggests.

PoF Dahleen employs the analogy of “the tablecloth trick, the one where you pull the tablecloth out really fast, and the dishes all stay put” to share the story of the first time a late-breaking event affected his well-laid locum tenens planshere.

2. Lack of Benefits

This is one of the biggest downsides of locum tenens practice: Great pay, but no benefits. Unless you can access health insurance (and possibly other benefits) through a spouse or partner’s employer-subsidized plan, you’re on your own for health, dental, vision, and life insurance.

Unless you can access health insurance (and possibly other benefits) through a spouse or partner’s employer-subsidized plan, you’re on your own for health, dental, vision, and life insurance.

And there’s more. A former Wall Street investment accountant and stock analyst who now practices internal medicine in Southern California, Carroll emphasizes you’ll be on your own for retirement savings, as well. “You will not have an employer matching any contribution you make to your retirement funds. You can, however, set up online accounts to automatically deduct from your checking accounts so you can at least contribute to your own retirement accounts,” she says.

As a locum tenens clinician, you won’t have access to group life or disability insurance plans through your job — although some locum tenens firms can recommend affiliate companies through which you can obtain these coverages. Carroll suggests maintaining your own portable life and disability plans to protect your loved ones if something should incapacitate you from practicing medicine.

3. Does Not Count Towards PSLF Qualification

Okay, this is a consideration we never would have recognized without the help of our friend thePhysician Tycoon. (Honestly, I didn’t even know what the acronym stands for.)

“If you have any federal loans and hope to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness through the PSLF Program, unfortunately locums work (or any 1099 job) will not qualify. You must be a full-time W2 worker for the payments to count towards PSLF.

“The lack of PSLF qualification could be a stumbling block for you, but in all likelihood not all your loans are eligible, and the program is in danger of being phased out anyway. You can overcome this hurdle by using the extra income from locum tenens work to pay off your debt faster.”

According to theConsumer Financial Protection Bureau, “This program helps you manage your student loan debt while pursuing a career in public service.” It’s available to employees working in all levels of government, school districts, public hospitals, nonprofit organizations and more.

“The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on your federal direct loans after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying public service employer.”

However, Carroll advises not to let this obstacle keep you from trying locum tenens. “First, PSLF qualification is based on your cumulative amount of work, not the consecutive amount. Your 120 student loan payments do not have to be made exactly 10 years in a row. Secondly, you can still use the federal PAYE or REPAYE student loan repayment plans, even if you’re receiving a 1099.”

4.Lack of Long-Term Commitment

Carroll notes the flexibility of locum tenens is two-way. “A locum assignment can be a week, a month, or several months, but whatever the amount is, it won’t be guaranteed for any length of time.” She says the future uncertainty can be difficult for some physicians to handle.

“This can also be tough financially speaking,” Carroll adds. ‘Sure, the pay for locums can be quite lucrative, but if you aren’t sure if it will be available exactly when you need it, then this could stress your finances. Again, with careful planning, you can avoid any major dry spells.” (This is where it might help to work with more than one agency.)

Moreover, PoF Dahleen points out the social isolation a “short-timer” can feel on locum tenens assignments. “Socially, your ephemeral presence may leave you high and dry when it comes to work parties and social gatherings. Some functions are reserved for the active medical staff, a mailing list you probably won’t be on.” (But social connection probably isn’t your motivation for working locum tenens, is it?)

5. The Locums Agency Will Receive a Cut Of Your Pay (Sort Of)

“While an agency can be extremely helpful in securing your temporary work, their ultimate goal is getting paid,” Carroll says. Correctly, she notes agencies typically receive a commission (usually 20 to 25%) on top of your earnings. “If this galls you, you will need to find your own assignments. While that is certainly doable, it is time consuming,” she writes.

“While an agency can be extremely helpful in securing your temporary work, their ultimate goal is getting paid,” Carroll says. Correctly, she notes agencies typically receive a commission (usually 20 to 25%) on top of your earnings. “If this galls you, you will need to find your own assignments. While that is certainly doable, it is time consuming,” she writes.

On this subject, PoF Dahleen shares, “When you consider the fact that I did [locum tenens] for two years and put a lot of hours in, I probably earned a couple hundred thousand dollars for those agencies. It’s no wonder they don’t stop e-mailing, calling, and even texting. Landing one doc for an assignment of several months’ duration can be worth tens of thousands of dollars to the agency.”

It is extremely important to realize that, while agency fees can seem exorbitant at an individual level, locum tenens agencies are operating a full-time business, paying for medical malpractice insurance (where one bad outcome/payout could imperil an agency’s very survival) and guaranteeing the provider their pay rate, even though there is no guarantee that the facility/practice will pay them. And they are paying their own internal staff’s full-time wages every day to search and arrange for the next assignment the provider may take.

6. The Application and Credentialing Process Can Be Exhausting

“There’s a reason it takes time to start working locums, and that’s because the credentialing process takes quite a bit of time. Credentialing is a major factor,” Carroll says. She adds that even when agencies tout ‘fast credentialing,’ the process can take “several weeks to months. The further along you are in your career and the more places you’ve worked, the longer the process will take.” Carroll suggests you expect an even longer credentialing process if you’ve been involved in any type of malpractice lawsuit.

“You’ll need to keep a detailed file of your credentialing documents,” she advises. (Notice staying organized seems to be a theme of succeeding in locum tenens medical practice.)

7. Your Home Life Will be Impacted

“While you’re living out of your suitcase, your family back home will have to adjust to life without you for extended periods. Is your family also prepared to take on the sacrifice?” Carroll asks. She suggests this could mean extra work for your partner or other household members.

“If you have kids or fur babies, they do miss you while you’re gone. FaceTime can help, but there’s no getting around the fact that you will be away from your loved ones.” She points out that beyond the potential relationship damage, paying for childcare or pet care “will eat into your proceeds from locums work.”

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Next: Ask Locumpedia if locum tenens is right for you!

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FAQs

How does a locum agency work? ›

Locum Agencies

These are organisations with an expertise in locum jobs in medicine. They liaise with numerous hospitals across the country and keep track of all current vacancies, whether the shifts will be relatively manageable or difficult, as well as which hospitals offer the highest locum doctor pay rates.

Do locum doctors get paid more? ›

Locum doctors earn much more per hour than their permanent counterparts. This is often what initially attracts doctors in the first instance.

How long does it take to become a locum doctor? ›

We typically require doctors to have a minimum of six months clinical experience to ensure that you are comfortable within a locum post and to maintain a high level of care for all patients. In addition, you will need to go through our compliance process.

How do locum agencies make money? ›

Agencies are private, profit-making companies, and they charge Trusts fees for filling shifts and managing compliance. That means they're motivated to ensure you're working as much as possible, but will also aim to place you in shifts where they can earn higher fees.

How much do locum doctors make per hour? ›

Pan-London rates are agreed rates which hospitals within Greater London (roughly the M25 boundary) have agreed to pay locum doctors. This applies to locum work both through Staff Banks and agencies alike. 👉 SHO: Rates here are £36 per hour for core hours and £42 for non-core hours.

How long can you locum for? ›

Locums should be appointed for a maximum initial period of six months. Any extension beyond that should be subject to a satisfactory review by the employer and in consultation with the relevant colleague. Contracts can be extended by a maximum of six months (making the locum contract 12 months in total).

What's the lowest paying doctor? ›

It should be noted that pediatricians have the lowest annual salary out of any specialty on our list; however, they also work fewer hours than most specialties. The biggest draw for pediatrics is that you get to work with children and adolescents.

Can I be a locum doctor forever? ›

In fact, we're seeing the decision to work indefinitely as a 'career locum' become far more popular these days. That's because locum doctors can still progress into more senior roles, moving from SHO to Registrar, and eventually even Consultant.

What is the highest paid position as a doctor? ›

What are the highest-paying doctor jobs? Anesthesiologists and surgeons earn the highest income among doctors. According to Payscale August 2022 data, anesthesiologists earn an average of $307,740, and surgeons earn an average of $287,500 as of July 2022 data.

What is locum salary? ›

At the SHO level, for example, you might expect to get £40 - £45 per hour for core hours, and up to £50 per hour at best for anti-social hours.

Do locum workers get sick pay? ›

If you're working through the agency as their employee and fulfil certain criteria, including having been ill for at least 4 days in a row, you will qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks.

How many hours do locum doctors work? ›

Working hours

As a junior doctor you can carry out additional activity over and above the standard commitment set out in your work schedule up to a maximum average of 48 hours per week (or up to 56 hours per week if you have opted out of the WTR).

Do locums get holiday pay? ›

Locum doctors and 'rolled up holiday pay'

All employees are entitled to statutory paid annual leave of 5.6 weeks per annum, or 28 days, which can include public holidays. The same is true for locum doctors, who should receive the entitlement on a pro rata basis.

Is locum tenens worth it? ›

If you're a doctor looking for new opportunities, you may want to consider locum tenens positions. Working as a locum tenens doctor provides physicians with many benefits, including flexibility and control over their schedule, while gaining experience in different healthcare settings.

Do locums get pension? ›

Locum work at your own practice is pensionable in the same way as your main practitioner earnings and should be detailed on your end of year certificate. Locum work at other practices should be pensioned via the completion of locum forms A and B, detailed above.

What is the difference between a doctor and a locum? ›

A locum doctor, or locum tenens physician, is a medical professional who substitutes for a practice's regular doctor for a period of time. These doctors might temporarily replace physicians who are ill, on sabbatical or traveling.

Where do the highest paid doctors live? ›

Kentucky and Tennessee have the highest average annual compensation for physicians, according to Medscape's "Physician Compensation Report 2022."

What is the highest paid doctor per month? ›

In India, the average beginning income for a Doctor is INR 5.04 LPA. However, with time and expertise, the greatest compensation for a Senior Doctor in India goes from INR 12.5 L to 18.4 LPA. A doctor working in a private hospital can earn up to INR 1 lakh per month, or even more in some situations.

How long can you bill as locum tenens? ›

Physicians may retain substitute physicians to take over their professional practices when they are absent for reasons such as illness, pregnancy, vacation or continuing medical education. It is not appropriate to bill Fee-For-Service Time Compensation for longer than 60 days.

Is it good to work as a locum? ›

Better Wages. Another big reason to become a locum is that pay is usually better. You get to set your own rates so, based on your experience and skillset, as well as industry demand, you can easily get higher pay. When you're in full-time employment, you're more likely to earn less.

What does locum stand for? ›

The word locum comes from the Latin phrase locum tenens, which means “place holder”. A locum is a person who temporarily fulfills the duties of another. A locum doctor is therefore a doctor who covers for another doctor who is on leave.

What's the easiest doctor to become? ›

Least Competitive Medical Specialties
  1. Family Medicine. Average Step 1 Score: 215.5. ...
  2. Psychiatry. Average Step 1 Score: 222.8. ...
  3. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Average Step 1 Score: 224.2. ...
  4. Pediatrics. Average Step 1 Score: 225.4. ...
  5. Pathology. Average Step 1 Score: 225.6. ...
  6. Internal Medicine (Categorical)
20 May 2021

What doctor has the most free time? ›

Here is our list of the top 10 happiest doctor specialties according to work-life balance:
  • Dermatology.
  • Anesthesiology.
  • Ophthalmology.
  • Pediatrics.
  • Psychiatry.
  • Clinical Immunology/Allergy.
  • General/Clinical Pathology.
  • Nephrology.
9 Jun 2022

Which doctors work the least hours? ›

Of note, allergy and immunology physicians also spend the least amount of time on paperwork and administrative tasks out of any specialty on our list, at just 14.6 hours per week. For perspective, this is a similar amount of time to dermatology, which is known for being one of the best lifestyle specialties.

Can locum doctors write prescriptions? ›

If you are hiring a locum, or are in a multi-doctor practice, your locum or a practice partner may prescribe S8 medicines to the patient under the terms of your NSW Ministry of Health S8 authority if it is therapeutically necessary.

Is a locum a qualified doctor? ›

As a locum doctor, you will still need to be fully qualified as a doctor just like you would in a permanent full-time position. You need to have complete registration with the GMC (General Medical Council), and be registered as a GP or practitioner.

Can you join multiple locum agencies? ›

Join a Minimum of Two Locum Agencies

Yes joining a locum agency can be a bit of effort but we would recommend joining them at the same time so you have all the documentation/certificates ready and can email out to both agencies at once.

What medical job is the happiest? ›

The 10 Happiest Jobs in the Medical Field
  • Anesthesiologist. ...
  • Nutritionist/Dietician. ...
  • Dentist. ...
  • Respiratory Therapist. ...
  • Optometrist. ...
  • Psychiatrist. ...
  • Physical Therapist. ...
  • Speech-Language Pathologist. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) help people with communication disorders.

What is the easiest highest paying medical job? ›

Well-paying medical jobs that require limited schooling
  • Dietary technician. National average salary: $36,629 per year. ...
  • Phlebotomy technician. ...
  • Medical assistant. ...
  • Medical coding specialist. ...
  • Licensed practical nurse (LPN) ...
  • Clinical laboratory technician. ...
  • Radiologic technologist. ...
  • Registered nurse.

Which medical field is most in demand? ›

4 Key Healthcare Jobs in High Demand Moving Into 2022
  • Nurse Practitioners (NP) Job outlook: 52% increase from 2020-2030 (BLS) ...
  • Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Job outlook: 35% increase from 2020-2030 (BLS) ...
  • Medical and Health Service Managers. Job outlook: 32% increase from 2020-2030 (BLS) ...
  • Medical Assistants.

Why is it called locum? ›

The word locum comes from the Latin phrase locum tenens, which means “place holder”. A locum is a person who temporarily fulfills the duties of another. A locum doctor is therefore a doctor who covers for another doctor who is on leave.

Is locum considered self-employed? ›

Ordinarily locums are classed as self-employed, meaning that they will be responsible for paying their own tax and national insurance (NI) contributions and keeping their accounts in order and up-to-date.

How much do locum doctors earn per day? ›

Locum doctors will on average earn anything from £46,000 without much experience, increasing all the way up to £88,000 which is almost double, which of course will require much more experience. Doctor shifts can range from anywhere between £80 – £150 per hour. In some cases, you can make over £600 in a day.

What happens if you get caught working cash in hand? ›

Working cash in hand is not illegal if you declare your cash payments to HMRC. The offence that you are most likely to be prosecuted for is fraudulent evasion of income tax pursuant to Section 106A of the Taxes Management Act 1970 (TMA 1970).

Can locum doctors claim travel expenses? ›

Depending on the exact details of how you carry out your work as a locum GP, dental practitioner or optician, some or all of those travel expenses may be tax deductible.

Can locum doctors claim mileage? ›

GP locum mileage

If you're a GP locum then you can charge for mileage to and from your place of work and for visits too if you want to – some locums do, some don't.

Is a locum a casual? ›

In the medical industry a casual worker is called a locum. If you are doing casual work, you are referred to as someone who is locuming. Although the word 'casual' is used, there is nothing casual about a locum. They are highly professional people who have chosen to locum for a variety of reasons.

Can you get a mortgage with a locum job? ›

For example, a mortgage underwriter will assess a salaried locum differently to a self-employed portfolio locum, working in short term roles at various practices. Fear not. A locum can get a mortgage too!

Can locums get a mortgage? ›

Yes, locum doctors can get mortgage, but they will face challenges in proving to mortgage lenders that they have regular and stable income. When applying for a mortgage loan, locum doctors will need to provide a lot of evidence on earnings which can be trickier if they are self-employed.

What is the difference between locum and per diem? ›

Locum tenens positions are a substitute or temporary role for clinicians, typically in a full-time capacity. Per diem is basically locum tenens without a set schedule. Based on schedules and availability, clinicians working per-diem can decide to pick up any open shifts.

Does Medicare cover locums? ›

A patient's regular physician may receive Medicare Part B payment, for covered visit services of a locum tenens physician who is not an employee of the regular physician.

Do locums need to be credentialed? ›

Just like any medical professional job, though, it does require paperwork to start. One of the most popular questions we get about working locum is: Do locum tenens providers need to be credentialed? The short answer is yes.

How do you get out of a locums contract? ›

You should be able to terminate the locum tenens agreement any time with a 30-day written notice. It means that you officially “break up” with an agency. But why would anybody need to do it? Because if you don't, it will be auto-renewed.

Can you live off a pension? ›

If you have worked enough to get Social Security benefits, you can live on that income after you retire, if you are willing to have a modest lifestyle. If your company offers a pension, you may be able to rely on that when you retire, instead of your own savings, especially if you have no mortgage.

Are pensions paid for life? ›

Because pension plans are intended to provide periodic payments for life, certain forms of payment are required by law. For single employees, the required form of payment is a straight-life annuity, which typically provides a monthly payment based on the plan formula.

Is locum full time? ›

There are full-time and part-time locum doctor positions. Full-time practitioners may be part-time locum doctors to supplement their existing income. Some locum doctors may find themselves moving between different hospitals and areas.

How much do locum agencies charge UK? ›

The UK National average locum rate for SHOs was around £44.08 per hour in 2021. This was taken from all the roles added to the Messly platform, including both core and non-core hours, from all specialties and across all regions in the UK.

How do I become a locum agent? ›

You must have a full registration with the General Medical Council and be registered as a practitioner or GP. This is exactly the same for permanent positions. Furthermore, having plenty of credentials and extensive experience is highly likely to work in your favour when applying for locum work.

What does locum staffing mean? ›

Locum tenens is taken from a Latin phrase meaning “to hold the place of.” Most commonly referring to temporary physicians, locum tenens doctors contract with recruitment agencies to perform medical services for a healthcare organization over a certain period of time.

Do you pay tax on locum? ›

Yes, a locum doctor will need to submit a tax return in the same way any other self-employed professional would.

Do locums get sick pay? ›

Absences and sick pay

If you're working as a locum doctor and fall ill or need to self-isolate, your work contract will set out what you are entitled to in terms of paid sick leave for missed shifts.

Can you do locum full-time? ›

One of the biggest benefits of locum work is the flexibility it offers. Locum work can take a variety of forms, whether you chose to locum full-time, part-time or casually pick up shifts. As a result of this many of our locums choose to locum alongside fulltime employment in order to supplement their income.

How do you negotiate a locum? ›

Do try to negotiate and offer your rate. Once you make an offer stick with it. If you give in they will know it and they will keep trying to make you give in for lower and lower rates. If you negotiate and don't give in after some time, you will start getting higher rates from them.

Can a locum claim travel expenses? ›

4 min read. This is one the most asked about questions and the short answer is no a locum pharmacist cannot claim mileage as an allowable expense as a sole trader. The reason for this is that a locum pharmacist is choosing to travel as part of their work and therefore cannot expect to be reimbursed for this expense.

How do you bill under locum tenens? ›

Billing for Locum Tenens

Locum tenens physicians may not bill Medicare; they should be paid on a per diem or similar fee-for-time basis. Claims payment is made under the name and billing number of the physician or the practice (in the event the physician has left the practice) that hired the locum tenens physician.

Does locum count as self-employed? ›

Ordinarily locums are classed as self-employed, meaning that they will be responsible for paying their own tax and national insurance (NI) contributions and keeping their accounts in order and up-to-date.

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