Let’s say a hospital or practice is down to two physicians. With the shortage of doctors in today’s market, the hiring process is taking longer than expected – yet patients still need uninterrupted care.

When caseloads can’t wait for newly hired doctors to come on board, many hospitals, clinics or practices fill the gap with locum tenens physicians.

What Does a Locum Tenens Do?

Locum tenens is Latin for “placeholder” and is the medical version of a temporary employee. As a locum tenens physician, you work on a temporary assignment anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months.

Locum tenens physicians travel to various medical facilities and treat patients, order and interpret tests, write prescriptions, and handle related administrative duties.

The need for locum doctors is high. In fact, 85% of healthcare facilities have used locum tenens in the past year to fill gaps caused by a shortage of physicians, according to this survey. 


Here are a few reasons why doctors in all specialties and career phases — from residency to retirement — often work as locums:

1.) A Great Way to Supplement Income

In many cases, the number one reason doctors choose to work locum tenens is to supplement their income. Most locum tenens physicians also work in a practice or are employed by a hospital and pick up extra locums shifts on weekends or over their vacations. It’s an excellent way to earn extra money to pay off student loans or put toward other financial goals.

2.) Flexible Schedule 

As a locums tenens, you can choose which assignments to take, in what location, and for how long. It’s an ideal option for those with commitments outside of practicing medicine — like caring for a loved one, serving medical missions, or just looking for a better work/life balance.

3.) Less Administration, More Patient Time

One of the most rewarding aspects is practicing “pure medicine.” Without having to worry about paperwork or other administrative duties, locums physicians can spend more time with patients. Successful locums are often asked by facilities to return for repeat assignments – as a result, some physicians work with the same patients for years.

4.) No Need to Worry about Insurance or Overhead

Unlike physicians who run their own practice, locum tenens don’t have to worry about overhead or putting money back into the business. In fact, many locums receive comprehensive malpractice insurance that covers them even after their assignment ends. Locum tenens is also attractive to young physicians who haven’t established a patient base.


So You Want to be a Locum Tenens Physician?

Before becoming a locum tenens, there are many aspects of this career to consider. For example, you should be comfortable learning different systems at different hospitals. You must also deal with staff idiosyncrasies and navigate hospital politics without excessive angst. You need to be okay with traveling and must be flexible when it comes to lending a hand wherever needed.

One of the best ways to see if this is the right career move is to contact a reputable healthcare recruiter. At SpotOn Recruiting, we’re experts in working with locum tenens professionals and can help you identify any needed certifications, discuss your career goals and help prepare you for this next journey.


As a leading family- and woman-owned healthcare employment agency, SpotOn Recruiting is experienced in helping physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants find great jobs nationwide. If you’re a health professional looking to make your next career move, visit our website and see how our experienced team can help you meet your goals!  

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