Amid nationwide physician shortages and reports of provider burnout on the rise, more hospitals, clinics, and independent practices are increasingly recruiting physicians and physician extenders to fill the provider gap through temporary positions.
A recent report from Staff Care confirms the growing trend. In 2017, an estimated 48,000 physicians worked as locum tenens providers compared to 26,000 in 2002. Demand is also increasing for locum tenens physician extenders. A survey of hospitals, medical groups, and other healthcare facilities revealed that 26 percent of facility managers used locum tenens nurse practitioners (NPs) or physician assistants (PAs) at some point during the 12-month period of 2016, up from 9.5 percent in 2012. Fortunately, the PA profession is accelerating to meet this demand; the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 37 percent increase in PAs entering the field between 2016 and 2026.
Locum tenens assignments allow providers to define their own idea of work-life balance and create a schedule that aligns with their personal priorities. Providers have the opportunity to travel with locum tenens placements, but travel is not a requirement. Some physicians and physician extenders choose to work only in their local region.
In addition to these lifestyle benefits, temporary healthcare positions also enable providers to grow and develop—at any stage of their career. Providers can gain new knowledge and opportunities by working with diverse patients and medical cases as well as expanding one’s network within the regional or national medical community.
Enjoy a variety of experiences
Many healthcare providers say that variety and diversity are high on the list of reasons to work locum tenens assignments. The job inherently comes with new people to meet and diverse communities to serve.
Locum work, by its very nature, will expose medical professionals to a wide range of work environments, patient cases, and co-workers. Each practice and hospital has its own unique culture, patient base, and staff dynamics. Providers can use every interaction as an opportunity to learn about a new community that may be completely different from what they know. Conversations about local legends or traditions can foster meaningful relationships and help providers understand their patients and co-workers. Plus, learning about new cultures can instill greater empathy and give practitioners a broader world view.
Off the clock, providers have the ability to travel with intention and seek out new places, including landmarks, hiking trails, museums, and restaurants. This ability to mix it up is an aspect of locum tenens work that many medical professionals find appealing. It’s also an effective way to avoid the burnout that comes from dealing with the same issues day in, day out.
Gain knowledge and grow professionally
New challenges bring new insights. Locum tenens placements provide a stimulating work environment for medical providers to thrive and grow. The experience of working in different facilities can be immensely rewarding, whether you are new to the medical field and soaking up knowledge or a seasoned provider with vast expertise to share.
Being exposed to different providers, patient populations, and hospital systems is in experience in and of itself. It’s also a way for providers to become better at what they do. Locum tenens work encourages providers to discover their purpose and grow both personally and professionally.
For example, working in a rural health clinic with a primarily Hispanic immigrant population can introduce providers to a new language and culture, which many find both enlightening and challenging. Additionally, patients in rural areas don’t always have the same access to the kind and quality of care that exists in larger markets. It can be rewarding for providers to know they are making a difference in the lives of others.
Discover career advancements
Not every new physician is ready to take a permanent position straight out of residency. Temporary work at multiple medical facilities can provide valuable insight to guide or define career paths. Locum tenens work often opens the door to permanent positions and opportunities they might not otherwise be afforded. Young medical professionals can also benefit from networking with a wide variety of people in the healthcare industry.
Likewise, a locum tenens post can be the inspiration for seasoned providers who are suffering from burnout. Temporary placements allow providers to recharge their batteries, re-energize their passions, and explore new opportunities for a mid-career or pre-retirement transition.
Ninety four percent of healthcare facilities reported using locum tenens providers to maintain continuous coverage, according to the Staff Care study. The top two reasons to hire locum tenens were to fill a position while searching for a permanent physician (74.6 percent) and to fill in for members who left the team (73.6 percent).
When a healthcare facility is actively looking for a permanent hire, the locum tenens model can often deliver a smooth transition for both the facility and provider if each party feels it is a right fit. Locum work gives physicians and physician extenders the opportunity to test-drive a job before they make a decision. Similarly, healthcare facilities can confirm that providers complement the workplace culture, which can help ensure a positive environment that ultimately benefits the patients. Locum tenens can be a winning situation for all.
Courtney Driver is CEO of TinkBird Healthcare Staffing, a boutique medical staffing agency focused on permanent and temporary placement of primary care physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners.