A study published by Simon and Alonzo in the Journal of Healthcare Management surveyed more than 1,600 locum providers to find out. The survey consisted of 50 questions, and approximately 47 percent of those surveyed responded. The survey covered two general topic areas: demographic variables and professional variables.
The average age of respondents was 53 years with an age range of 28 to 83 years. Seventy percent of the locum providers were male and 30 percent were female. Men tended to be older, with an average age of 56 years compared with women who averaged 45 years. Marital status varied; 70 percent of providers were married, 20 percent were unmarried, and 10 percent were either widowed or divorced. Also, 28 percent had either dependent children or elderly parents at home.
Within this sample of locum providers, 27 percent practiced in primary care, 53 percent in specialty care, and 20 percent in subspecialty care. Primary care providers tended to be both female and younger compared to specialists and subspecialists. Locum providers in this sample had been practicing for an average of 23 years. About 14 percent of locum providers had been in practice for less than three years, and 40 percent had been in practice for more than 30 years.
This study compared the characteristics of locum tenens providers with those of nonlocum providers. The average locum provider (53 years) was older than the nonlocum provider (46 years), and women accounted for 30 percent of locum providers but only 23 percent of nonlocum providers. Certain specialties and subspecialties were less likely to practice in a locum tenens position: nuclear medicine, immunology, plastic surgery, aerospace medicine, public health, and ophthalmology. Other specialties, such as radiology, psychiatry, and emergency medicine, were actually more likely to practice in the locum group.
Fifteen percent of providers took their first locum position immediately following their education, compared with 40 percent who were either semiretired or retired. The primary motivations for accepting a locum position included the ability to practice part-time (31.5 percent), need for flexible schedule (21.1 percent), desire for higher income (15.5 percent), interest in traveling (9.5 percent), interest in a different practice setting (8.3 percent), and freedom from administrative duties (2.9 percent).
In this sample, women were motivated most by a need for a flexible schedule, and men were motivated by the ability to work part-time. Some individuals chose to make locum tenens work their career; in this survey, one out of every three providers indicated that they would continue locum work until retirement. The length of locum assignments varied with the most common being less than one month. Female providers were more likely to accept longer assignments compared with men.
In sum, the average locum provider was 53 years old and one-third considered a locum tenens practice pattern permanent. Primary care providers tended to be younger and predominantly women, whereas specialists and subspecialists were older and tended to be men. Women used locum compensation as their primary income and were motivated by a need for a flexible schedule, whereas men used locum compensation as secondary income and were motivated by a desire to practice part-time. Overall, locum tenens appeals to all types of providers who desire a healthy, flexible, controllable lifestyle.