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Medical staffing: The pros and cons of locum tenens

Locum tenens, roughly translated, means “to hold the place of,” and this strategy can be particularly beneficial for physicians, as well as staffing agencies.
Locum tenens, roughly translated, means “to hold the place of,” and this strategy can be particularly beneficial for physicians, as well as staffing agencies.

Demand for trained and talented physicians have been on the rise in the healthcare industry for years, and isn't expected to slow anytime soon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts an 13 percent rise in physician job outlook through 2026, which could pose a challenge for currently understaffed institutions.

One way that organizations look to bridge staffing gaps is with locum tenens opportunities. Locum tenens, roughly translated, means "to hold the place of," and this strategy can be particularly beneficial for physicians, as well as staffing agencies. At the same time, there are some challenges to be aware of and address head-on in order to make this style of staffing work.

Benefits of locum tenens

One of the greatest advantages of locum tenens staffing, both from the perspective of the staffing agency and the physician candidates they work with, is flexibility. Locum tenens allows staffing firms to more quickly overcome employment gaps using talented individuals, ensuring that institutions have the support and expertise they need to care for patients.

This flexibility is beneficial for physicians, as well. According to LocumTenens.com, a study of 500 physicians found that 48 percent are driven to engage in this staffing style due the flexible schedule allowed.

In addition, the study also discovered that locum tenens physicians are drawn to this type of more short-term work thanks to:

  • The ability to travel (38 percent). Staffing demands, particularly when it comes to physician positions, aren't unique to a single area. In fact, locum tenens was born out of the need to staff rural health clinics in underserved areas, supported by a grant from the University of Utah in the early 1970s, LocumTenens.com noted.
  • Opportunities to earn extra income (35 percent). As The Locums Life explained, locum tenens physicians receive a pay rate that is set ahead of time. This usually includes a daily rate for a specific amount of work, as well as an added hourly rate for additional work. 
  • Obtain clinical experience (34 percent). A short-term, locum tenens position is ideal for physicians needing to complete clinical experience as part of their degree or certification.

With key advantages for staffing firms, healthcare facilities and physicians themselves, it's no wonder why many recent graduates and career trained physicians are attracted to this style of work.

Potential drawbacks

At the same time, however, there are some possible cons to be aware of. MedPageToday contributor Bill Heller pointed out that locum tenens workers must be willing to think on their feet and be outside of their comfort zone. This includes getting to know a new electronic health system, new staff members and different policies at each facility.

For staffing agencies and healthcare facilities, it can be a challenge to manage all the moving parts involved with locum tenens workers - from schedules to credentials, keeping everything organized is an uphill battle.

A VMS solution can help eliminate these headaches while helping staffing agencies take advantage of all the benefits that a locum tenens strategy can offer. To find out more, check out the features of our industry-leading VMS from BlueSky Medical Staffing Software and connect with us for a demo today.

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