What Is Locum Tenens? A Comprehensive Guide

Posted on: August 11, 2016

written by

Emma Siemasko

When you were in school, did you imagine that you’d graduate and get a traditional full-time job in healthcare? Many healthcare providers imagine this path: it seems clear, straightforward, and in line with what society expects.

Today’s workforce, however, is exploring alternate options. A recent Intuit study estimates that 24 percent of the American workforce currently works as independent contractors, and that this number may rise to 40 percent by 2020.

So, why are people forgoing traditional employment? According to a report by Requests for Startups, many people opt for independent contracting because they get paid more, have more flexibility, and derive greater enjoyment from work.

When it comes to working as a healthcare provider, there are many benefits of independent contracting, or locum tenens. Here are five that prove locum tenens could be a better option than working full-time:

1. You Can Create Your Own Schedule

Healthcare providers who work traditional jobs are tied to the facility’s schedule. They need to plan and ask for schedule changes, and they have a predetermined number of vacation and sick days.

If you work locum tenens, however, you can make your own flexible schedule. You can take a month off to backpack through Southeast Asia if you choose. Additionally, you can work wherever you want, whether you’re a physician, dentist, NP, or PA. You don’t have to commute an hour for a job if you don’t want to. You’ll get a dedicated recruiter, who acts as a partner to help you suss out which assignments make the most sense for you. Once you’re on an assignment, they’ll also be ready to assist you if you have any issues.

2. You Get to Explore Your Options

A traditional job requires you to give your whole self for the foreseeable future without an out. Not so with locum tenens.

If you’re a new graduate or are unhappy in your current area of healthcare, locum tenens offers the opportunity to explore options without a large commitment. Perhaps you’re curious about working at a large hospital after spending a few years at someone else’s practice, but you’re not willing to commit to a full-time job in that environment. With locum tenens, you can try out a temporary placement to see if it aligns with your hopes and expectations.

3. Locum Tenens Is a Solid Career Choice

Many people, from seasoned practitioners all the way down to new clinicians who just completed residency training, see locum tenens as a long-term career choice. Healthcare providers don’t work these roles as a last resort. Instead, they choose the locum lifestyle because it gives them the opportunity to travel, offers freedom and flexibility, and helps them gain experience in a variety of fields.

Locum tenens is also a good option for those who are unsure of how they want to proceed in healthcare. With this type of work, you can try out different environments, locations, and departments.

4. The Pay Is Excellent

Some worry that being an independent contractor means they’ll get paid less, but this is far from true. Many organizations use locum tenens providers on an ongoing basis to ensure optimal staffing, and they’re willing to pay top dollar to get skilled clinicians into their facilities. Many of these roles can last up to a year, and you can expect to be compensated as a full-time employee.

Also, locums are paid based on how many hours they spend caring for patients, as opposed to how many production units are completed. This means these providers can focus exclusively on patient care, rather than completing paperwork.

For more information, read our article about locum tenens payment.

5. You Can Improve Your CV

If you work in one facility for most of your career, you might not have much to say on your CV when you finally do decide to strike out and try something new. However, if you work as a locum tenens provider, you’ll have comprehensive experience across many settings.

Working as an independent contractor can show how well-rounded and versatile you are. Your experience as a locum tenens provider will make you a more attractive candidate to future employers.

Addressing Other Concerns

Here’s how to tackle the details:

  • Health Insurance: Some locum tenens providers worry about their health insurance options if they don’t have a traditional full-time job, but the health insurance market for independent contractors offers a wide variety of options at affordable prices. You can pick your own plan, as opposed to being stuck with whatever your employer provides.
  • Taxes: Working as an independent contractor has some tax benefits — you can deduct certain work-related expenses, such as hours commuted and the cost of health insurance. However, you need to stay on top of your tax forms so you aren’t surprised on April 15. 
  • Malpractice Insurance and Credentialing: Locum tenens staffing agencies offer malpractice insurance with on-hand credentialing support as added benefits to healthcare providers.

To learn more, read our “Tax Guide for Locum Tenens Providers.”

Independence Is a Choice

Healthcare providers are needed across the country, and locum tenens is a good option for those looking to build a career. You’ll have flexibility, solid experience to add to your CV, and the opportunity to work in a variety of practice settings with many different patients.

Ready to dive in? Explore our current locum tenens job opportunities for physicians, NPs, PAs, and dentists.

About Emma Siemasko

Emma Siemasko is a writer and marketing consultant who specializes in career advice, startups, and healthcare. She has contributed to a variety of healthcare publications, and enjoys the attention she gets when she visits a doctor or nurse.

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