Why are Locum Tenens positions taking off??

Growth of locum tenens physicians


Locum tenens (meaning ‘take the place of’) is a perfect match for hospitals and physicians for many reasons.

In a survey conducted by Staff Care, healthcare facility mangers usedLT all 91% at least once in 2014, 73% at least once in a typical month and 18%  said they used 4 or more LT a month. Primary care physicians (PCP) were in the most in demand as almost 35% of stated they used PCPs at least once in 2014. Following PCP's behavioral health was next at 30%, hospitalists at 22% and surgeons at 14.7%.

68% of these managers said they used LT primarily to fill in till they hired a permanent physician and 71% rated the LT physician skills as excellent or good and 81% felt it was worth the cost. Next, LT is used to fill in a vacancy left by a departing physician. With supply constant and demand rising, LT is just one option for health systems. These physicians have already been screened and vetted and provide continuity of care and prevent loss of revenue due to a vacancy. Daily rates can vary from several hundred to 41500 a day or more.

In a Merritt Hawkins 2014 survey for the Physicians Foundation, 27.6 of physicians were considering cutting back or retiring and 9% working LT. The latter group has increased from6.4% on 2012 to 9% in 2014 and younger physicians choosing LT is increasing. That is, almost 65,000 physicians were considering LT. Flexibility, pay rates, a political nature of work, travel, professional development are main reasons for choosing LT. Disadvantages stated include travel, uncertainty of work, lack of benefits and learning new rules/equipment.

It appears that younger physicians are increasingly choosing LT and for older physicians over half indicate they start LT work in mid-career having walked away from hassles, rising overhead and politics and clash of values at work. What will this do for increasing shortage of full-time physicians? Increasing utilization of ANP’s and PA’s will not be enough.