The demographics of locum tenens are changing. What was once seen only as an option for older physicians is now becoming popular among younger doctors. Many recent graduates are now working temporary assignments right out of residency or fellowship as a way to test drive a facility or a part of the country before they decide to sign a contract. Midcareer doctors are also using locum tenens to make more money on the side or as a way to fill gaps between full-time jobs.
Despite younger physicians gravitating toward locum tenens, physicians ages 50 and older still make up more than half of the locum tenens workforce.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. Scheduling flexibility
CompHealth recently surveyed 1,000 physicians about the most appealing benefits of locum tenens work. At the top of the list was scheduling flexibility. We work with a lot of physicians at the end of their careers who want to finally have control over their schedules. They still want to practice medicine, but not full time. They find that locum tenens allows them to pick their own hours — whether that's working a few weeks each month, a few months out of the year, or nearly full-time — without the administrative burden of running a practice. After years of managing staff, working with insurance payers, and dealing with the headaches associated with running a private practice, the chance to solely focus on practicing medicine as a locum tenens can be incredibly refreshing.
I recently spoke with a pediatrician who was nearing retirement. Over his 20-plus years of private practice, he has treated three generations of patients. Not surprisingly, he was worried about cutting ties with many of those people. When he started working locum tenens in other locations, he kept seeing a small pool of patients at his own practice. He said slowly easing out of private practice made the transition much easier.
2. More time with family
Many physicians are drawn to private practice because it allows them and their families to put down roots in a community. But as those families grow up, they tend to spread out. Locum tenens is a way to check in on children or grandchildren in other parts of the country without having to move — and while still getting paid to practice medicine.
Physician Norman Baron decided to try locum tenens when his adult son fell ill. He needed to take more time off from medicine than his practice allowed and he needed to be closer to his son who had moved to a different city. Once his son was back to full strength, Baron found there were other benefits to locum tenens as well.