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August 30, 2019
June 27, 2022

Locum Tenens work is oftentimes thought to have begun within the past 100 years. However, it actually originated in the 1800s when people began moving west in search of gold. With the influx of people moving west, physicians were needed to provide care, so some migrated with the pioneers. These physicians became the first unofficial traveling physicians.

A Brief History

Fast forward to the 1900s when the mobile X-ray machine was invented by Marie Curie. Physicians would travel to the battlefield with the X-ray machine and care for wounded soldiers.  After the war, the need for physicians remained steady as there were thousands of injured soldiers. Physicians began traveling and working at VA facilities to provide assistance and care to the wounded.

Soon, physicians started venturing outside of the United States to provide aid. In 1968, doctors traveled to Biafra, Nigeria to help those in need after a civil war. Eventually, these doctors started traveling to other countries to provide care. They became what we know today as Doctors Without Borders, which started to highlight the benefits of traveling physicians.

The Health Systems Research Institute (HSRI)

In the 1970s rural physicians in the United States needed to continue medical and educational training. In order to receive training, they had to leave their rural community. These communities already had limited access to the care they needed, and could not merely be abandoned by their physicians, so an organization known as Health Systems Research Institute was founded.

HSRI began offering a program where rural physicians could leave to receive the training they needed, and temporary physicians would travel to rural areas to cover for them. Not long after Health Systems Research Institute was founded, physicians traveling with HSRI founded the first locum tenens staffing agency in 1979

Locum Tenens Today

Today, there are dozens of agencies to choose from. Not only are there more staffing agencies, the number of  locum tenens providers has grown drastically.

According to Physicians Practice, there are currently around 50,000 locum tenens physicians actively serving 7.5 million Americans every single year.  Within the next decade, the number of locum tenens is expected to increase to 120,000, and a majority of facilities will use locum tenens physicians to provide patient care.

If you are interested in joining the long history of physicians working locum tenens, contact a recruiter.