What is Locum Tenens? A Guide for Providers and Facilities

What is Locum Tenens? A Guide for Providers and Facilities

illustrated pictures of locum tenens providers including doctors, nurse practitioners, and PAs

Providers increasingly find that locum tenens work aligns with their career and lifestyle, while Facilities rely on locum tenens to fill important roles with top talent. Read on to learn more about locum tenens and what it means to choose the locum life.



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Locum Tenens Meaning

What Does Locum Tenens Mean?

Locum tenens refers to providers and physicians work at healthcare facilities to fill gaps in care or occupy vacant positions on a temporary basis, though the positions can be short-term or long term.

A locum tenens staffing and recruiting agency such as Barton Associates assigns these providers to short- and long-term positions at hospitals, medical practices and organizations across the United States.


Where Does the Term Locum Tenens Come From?

“Locum Tenens” is Latin for “holding one’s place. Although the term’s origins dating back to 1640, its modern use stems from the 1970s when rural areas required additional physician staffing for their medically underserved populations. The industry has grown rapidly over the last 50 years, with more than 85% of healthcare facilities relying on locum tenens providers in all 50 states. The term has also expanded to include a wider variety of healthcare providers, not just doctors and physicians.


What is the Difference Between Locum Tenens and Per Diem?

Per diem work is “as needed” and tends to lack a specific start or end date. A per diem worker may be needed one day and not the next. Locum tenens work is contracted to have a set start and end date, and often comes with more benefits than per diem work.


Who Works Locum Tenens Jobs?

Locum tenens is an attractive option for healthcare providers looking to gain clinical experience, earn better pay, or have flexibility and less burnout in their careers. Others love locum tenens for the opportunity to travel and visit new places.

Healthcare workers of all fields and specialties now regularly work locum tenens. Barton Associates works with a wide variety of healthcare providers of all specialties, including Physicians, Nurse Practitioners (NPs), Dentists, and Physician Assistants (PAs).

What is Locum Tenens?

Play Summary

In the medical world, Locum Tenens simply refers to healthcare providers who take on temporary short or long-term jobs to fill gaps created by staffing shortages at hospitals, private practices, and companies throughout the United States. These gaps can be as short as one day or last the whole year, and are caused by planned vacations, maternity, and sabbatical leaves, and retirement. But they also happen due to unplanned absences like sudden illness or family emergencies.

Why do Medical Providers Choose Locum Tenens?

Why you should consider locum tenens job in 2024? We surveyed 280 locum tenens providers on why they initially chose locum work. Here are their top reasons:

Flexibility (37%)

Nurse practitioners and other providers overwhelmingly cite flexibility as the biggest draw to locum work. Whether it’s to avoid burnout or to create more time to focus on the things that matter to you in life, locum work allows you to choose assignments and contracts that match your needs.

Higher Earning Potential (17%)

Locum providers of all types make more on average than perm counterparts. Locum nurse practitioners, for example, make up to 80% more than their perm counterparts depending on the specialty and state.

Ability to Travel (15%)

Many nurse practitioners choose locum work for the chance to travel — while saving money. Because the locum tenens agency covers the travel expenses, it’s a terrific, cost-efficient opportunity to see the world.

Why Locum Tenens?

Locum Tenens Providers and Medical Facilities Benefit

Why do medical facilities work with locums?

There is a a critical shortage of medical providers (MDs, DOs, NPs, NPs, Dentists, and CRNAs) in the U.S. due to multiple factors including:

  1. Little-to-no change in the number of residency spots for physicians meaning leading to zero change in the number of new physicians practicing each year
  2. More physicians aging-out of practice due to age or burnout 
  3. Increased access to healthcare mean that the demand for physicians is growing
  4. An aging population that is living longer than ever that need care
  5. And, most recently, delayed preventative care due to facilities shutting down due to COVID-19

To combat this, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and even nurses have stepped up taking on added responsibilities, and gaining more autonomy to practice. During the pandemic, multiple states lifted laws for NPs and PAs regarding having an MD overseeing their work. But, even with these highly-skilled providers stepping up, there is still a critical shortage of all types of medical providers to combat.

To keep the doors open, facilities like critical access hospitals, IHS facilities, clinics, private practices, hospitals, and more rely on locum tenens providers to provide critical care to their patients. The locum life is not for everyone, but those who chose it are truly saving lives. Learn more about these medical providers and the facilities they work at.


Staffing Your Facility With Locum Tenens Providers

Partnering with a locum tenens company gives hospitals, private practices, urgent cares, IHS facilities, and a vast array of other organizations the flexibility to overcome short and-long term gaps in coverage due to:

  1. Unplanned or planned gaps in coverage from illness, leaves, or sabbaticals.
  2. Increased patient volume due to cold and flu season, pandemics/endemics, seasonal accidents, opening of summer camps, etc.
  3. Advanced planning to avoid burnout. Facilities will use Barton Associates to add additional personnel to their teams, allowing permanent staff to take vacation time.
  4. Problems finding permanent staff.  Many facilities sue locums because they are located in geographically challenging locations or because they need a specialized medical provider.
  5. Expanding the services offered at their current facility or the addition of new locations. Locums can fill the gap until permanent providers can be hired. 
  6. Surge staffing at the local, federal, or state government levels due to natural disasters, humanitarian crises, or to staff large-scale projects with a large number of medical providers. 

So, how does the locum tenens staffing process work with Barton Associates?



The Process

Locum Providers

For Clients

Locum Providers


Once you start with a locum tenens agency, you’ll schedule a phone consultation to discuss your interests, goals, and work history. This gives your recruiter good insight into the types of opportunities you’re looking for, and makes your overall job-search process more efficient.


For Clients


Your locum tenens agency will work with you to gather key pieces of information, including the type of physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, dentist, or certified registered nurse anesthetist you need, when and for how long you need them, and your budget parameters.

Locum Providers


Once you’ve had a chance to evaluate your options and decide which position(s) you’re interested in, your recruiter will submit your CV and other critical information to the hiring manager for review. This sometimes includes setting up a phone interview to ensure both you and the manager agree it’s a good fit.


For Clients


Once you’ve selected the locum tenens candidate(s) you’re interested in, your account manager will coordinate interviews with you and your team, if required. Generally, these interviews occur over the phone and provide the opportunity to get to know the candidate(s) so you can make an informed decision.

Locum Providers


If, after evaluating your options, you and the hiring organization decide to move forward, your recruiter will put the details of the locum assignment on paper and finalize the arrangement.


For Clients


After you’ve had a chance to evaluate all the locum candidates, simply let your account manager know which one you’d like to staff your facility. They will then coordinate the offer and ensure your provider of choice is on board with joining your team.

Locum Providers


Once you’ve agreed to move forward, your recruiter will work with you to handle any remaining details. At Barton, we’ll assign both a licensing and credentialing specialist and a travel specialist to guide you.


For Clients


After you and your locum have both agreed to move forward, your account manager will coordinate any necessary credentialing between your facility and the locum. That way, the process will go as smoothly as possible and your locum will be ready to go on day one!

Locum Providers


Now that you’ve tackled all the details, you’re ready to get started. Being a locum provider means you’re an independent contractor, and you’re typically paid on a net-15 basis. Keep in touch with your recruiter during your placement for help with addressing any issues or concerns. Given the temporary nature of locum placements, it’s important to discuss the potential for a contract extension at your current facility, or other opportunities your recruiter has available for you once your current placement has ended.


For Clients


While the locum physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, dentist, or certified registered nurse anesthetist is on assignment, you will only need to pay your locum agency the agreed-upon amount. Unlike hiring a permanent employee, you incur no overhead costs associated with medical benefits, retirement plans, or medical malpractice insurance. Nice and simple!

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs] About Locum Tenens

Q:  Do I have a choice where I’m placed? 

A: As a 1099 contractor, you, the locum, decide if you take an assignment or not. You can choose to take back-to-back assignments, or take one a quarter. Since you are an independent contractor, the decision is yours.

Q: Who makes travel arrangements/how is travel compensated?

A: With most Barton Associates locum tenens assignments travel including flights, hotels, car rentals, and other modes of transportation (ferries) are covered by the client and organized by Barton Associate’s in-house travel team.

Q: How do I get licensed for specific states?

A: If a medical provider working with Barton is interested in obtaining additional licenses, Barton Associate’s licensing team will help obtain new licenses as long as it is beneficial for both parties.

Q. How do I complete credentialing?

A.  Barton Associate’s in-house credentialing team works with clients and the locums to ensure a smooth credentialing process

Q. How do locum tenens get paid?

A. Locum providers are classified as independent contractors and are typically paid on a net-15 basis. Your recruiter can help answer any pay questions or concerns you encounter.

Q: How Long is a Locum Tenens Assignment? 

Locum tenens assignments can last anywhere from a couple of days to a year or more. Two months is a common range for many providers, but you can likely find a position that matches any need.  Barton also regularly has assignments that offer locums the ability to provide coverage on an ongoing basis, with no fixed end date.



How It Works

Barton coordinates your job search from start to finish!



We’ll schedule a phone consultation with a Barton Associates team member to discuss your interests, goals, and work history in order to get a sense of what you’re looking for in your next job.

Your Barton team will then go to work, compiling a list of open jobs in our extensive network that match your interests and skill set.



Once you’ve had a chance to evaluate your list of opportunities, your Barton rep will submit your information to facility you want to take an assignment at.

If there’s a match, we’ll work with the client manager on next steps.



Don’t worry! Barton Associates will handle licensing, credentialing, and travel arrangements before you arrive.

Your Barton rep will also work with your new facility to ensure you’re set up and ready to go on day one.


Complete the following form to learn more about how we can help you find the perfect opportunity