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August 9, 2019
June 27, 2022

Thousands of healthcare workers have found the secret to job security, flexibility, freedom, and less paperwork and office politics. Locum tenens expands the world of patient care. Providers can choose when, where, and how much they work. Physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other advance practice professionals are in a unique position due to the nationwide provider shortage, which expands the number of possible positions and locations.

Most people think locum tenens work is only for part time or during breaks from permanent placement. But more and more healthcare workers are benefiting from a full-time locum tenens career.

In a recent survey, 11.5 percent of doctors noted they would be employed in locum tenens work in the next one to three years. This is an increase from 9.1 percent in 2014. More than 70 percent of all hospitals will rely on locum tenens to cover practically every specialty. This includes high-demand areas like anesthesiology, behavioral health, family practice, general surgery, and internal medicine.

How to Make Locum Tenens a Full-Time Career

Locum tenens has numerous personal and professional benefits like travel, adventure, and control over your schedule, and it's ideal for any age or skill level. Before speaking to a recruiter, there are several points you should consider.

Determine what's important to you

  • Are you looking for a long-term position, or back-to-back, short-term assignments?
  • Where are you currently licensed? Where else would you like to pursue credentialing?
  • What is your financial baseline? Rates may vary between region or location (rural vs. urban). Confirm the salary with your recruiter.
  • Are you willing to relocate (once or multiple times) and what is the maximum comfortable distance from family/friends?
  • What are the housing and/or school needs for you and your family?

Planning for a Locum Tenens Career

The key to a successful full-time locum tenens career is planning. You need to think about timing, financial obligations, preferred locations, and personal priorities. You must also notify state organizations, professional societies, licensing boards, and the DEA about any changes.

Not only do you have to think about family commitments and travel plans, timing is essential for licensure, housing, and employer notification. It's recommended to plan at least six months in advance. The AMA notes it could take at least 60 days to receive licensure in a new state from the time you submit the completed application. The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) expediates the process and is live in 19 states.

If you are leaving an existing practice, it's best to notify colleagues approximately six months before your last day. Ensure patient records are safely transferred, following state and federal laws. Provide a written notification to patients one month prior to departure and follow state requirements (e.g. announcement in the paper).

Planning for financial and housing futures

There will be a fine-tuning period as you change from a salaried employee to an independent contractor. Speak to your recruiter about payments and consider hiring an accountant for your first tax season as a contractor. Your locum tenens employer will also be able to help with suggestions on housing and relocation packages.

Be open to possibilities

As a locum tenens provider, your career is truly in your hands. You may decide to travel to a new location with each engagement. Or you may create a new home with a repeat client. Let your recruiter know as soon as possible that you're open to extending your contract or taking a new position within the same healthcare system. The more you discuss your short and long-term plans, the better they can prepare and engage hiring managers.

Ready to begin your career in locum tenens? Contact a recruiter today.