For decades, locum tenens has been one of the best-kept secrets in healthcare. When I first started recruiting doctors for temporary assignments nearly 20 years ago, I spent so much time explaining what locum tenens meant that I rarely had the chance to talk about its benefits.
But locum tenens isn't a secret anymore.
A recent survey from CompHealth and Hanover Research found that one in five physicians have worked locum tenens. The survey also revealed that almost all physicians have a positive (55 percent) or neutral (42 percent) impression of locums.
The survey shows that there is a long list of reasons why physicians work locum tenens.
Here's the breakdown:
1. Supplementing core income (26 percent)
It's no surprise that money tops the list. The majority of locum tenens physicians take on temporary assignments in addition to their day job as a way to repay student loans, to pay for kids' schooling or weddings, or to plan for retirement. Back in 2013, only 19 percent of survey respondents listed supplemental income as the top reason for working locums. The jump to 26 percent is not surprising, given that many doctors say they are earning less since the ACA was implemented.
2. While searching for a full-time position or between full-time jobs (17 percent)
Along with a new job comes a lot of hoops to jump through — licensing, credentialing, hospital privileging — all of which take time. Many physicians turn to locums while they wait to start a new job rather than lose out on income.
3. Between residency/fellowship to a full-time job (13 percent)
Young physicians are flocking to locum tenens. Instead of immediately signing a long-term contract, as many as 20 percent of recent graduates are working locums right out of residency. These young doctors find that locums allows them to find out what they like in a job and, equally important, what they don't.
4. Controlling your own schedule (9 percent)
In a busy practice, it's not easy to take time off without feeling like you're letting your patients or your partners down. Locum tenens allows physicians to choose when they work, without having to ask for permission to take an extended vacation or to schedule work around personal commitments.