In the past, there was a stigma that locum tenens was for physicians who couldn’t get a “real job.” Doctors who did this temporary work may have been viewed as not being on top of their game, or they were retiring and on their way out.
Explore This IssueNovember 2022
Not so anymore. According to the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO), every year about 52,000 locum tenens providers take care of more than 7.5 million Americans.
With existing and predicted physician shortages, locum tenens has become important to mitigate burnout among doctors working in short-staffed medical institutions, as well as to cover all the patients who need to see a doctor but wouldn’t otherwise have access. And the work can be of great benefit to locum tenens physicians themselves.
“Locum tenens is a great option if you want to travel or work part time,” said otolaryngologist LaKeisha Henry, MD, who did locum tenens work when she was in the military and now does comprehensive otolaryngology in private practice with ENT Consultants of Nevada in Henderson. “I have friends who have pursued regular locum tenens work post-military service for years as a way to have variety in their practice, avoid burnout, and be able to work in different locations and systems.”
In addition to flexible schedules that can accommodate parenting and travel, locum tenens offers occasional slow-but-well-paid shifts in the emergency room (ER), as well as experience treating patients in underserved areas and in a wide range of cases. And when locum tenens physicians go home at the end of a shift, they don’t take work home with them in the form of filling out electronic medical records.
Benefits of Locum Tenens
Fresh out of residency about a decade ago, Mark C. Royer, MD, and Allison K. Royer, MD, married otolaryngologists living in Indiana, took jobs at a 300-bed community hospital an hour outside of Indianapolis. “It was great. We loved it,” said Mark. “The only problem was that we were the only otolaryngologists in the group, so when we were preparing to deliver our daughter, there would be nobody to cover the ER.”
That’s when locums came to their notice. The hospital they worked for made good use of locum tenens otolaryngologists as the Royers had two of their daughters.
“We got to know the physicians who worked locums and their stories,” Mark said. Around this same time, he was pursuing an MBA and thinking about doctors working too hard, doctors in private practice losing partners to big healthcare corporations, and billion-dollar companies taking a big cut of those hard-working doctors’ pay.