The term Locum Tenens is Latin for “holding one’s place”. This term refers to the industry in which physicians contract to work on temporary and long term staffing assignments. The locum tenens industry revenues are forecasted to be $1.9 billion in 2010. A locum tenens recruiting firm recruits and assigns locum tenens physicians to various healthcare facilities and practices for varying durations and, in general, will pay the physician an agreed upon hourly fee for the hours worked and provide malpractice insurance coverage for the physician. This arrangement allows the physician to focus on what he/she does best: practice medicine. Due to, in large part, a shortage of physicians, healthcare facilities and practices are turning to locum tenens firms to assist with their various staffing needs.
There is a nationwide shortage of physicians which is projected to reach 124,400 – 159,300 by the year 2025. Some studies have the shortage reaching as high as 200,000 by the year 2020. It is anticipated that this shortage will be further exacerbated by the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,which is expected to result in millions of newly insured people. Healthcare facilities and practices need physician coverage to ensure patient access and medical care as well as to generate revenue for the facility or practice. The duration of healthcare facilities and practices various staffing needs range from short –term (weeks or months) to long-term (six months or more), based on the requirements of the particular healthcare facility or practice. The staffing needs may include using a locum tenens physician long-term while the facility searches for a permanent physician, as a supplement to the existing permanent staff, as coverage for a vacationing physician, maternity leaves, patient census increases and preventing physician burnout at the facility, among other reasons.
With the ever increasing demand for medical services and the flexibility and benefits of practicing medicine as a locum tenens physician, more and more physicians are making a career as locum tenens physicians. Such a career provides the opportunity to practice medicine, hone skills in different environments, earn top pay and choose among multiple opportunities. Many physicians do not want the headaches associated with running a practice which include, among other things, collecting receivables, obtaining malpractice insurance annually, managing a business and employees and maintaining an up to date medical office environment, yet enjoy the practice of medicine. Physicians who may be frustrated by hospital politics, desire the freedom and flexibility to set their own schedule, desire to supplement their current income, and/or wish to explore other practice settings also find a career as a locum tenens physician rewarding.
Many locum tenens physicians obtain multiple state licenses in order to travel and practice in different states and countries. Physicians who recently finished residency might like the opportunity to try different settings and geographies, before deciding on a more permanent location. Some physicians work as locum tenens in order to supplement their income (e.g. an ER physician may be able to pick up 5-7 extra shifts per month as a locum tenens physician). Practicing as a locum tenens allows a physician the flexibility to choose when and where one desires to practice, whether on a short-term or a long-term basis.
As a result of the physician shortage, healthcare facilities and practices throughout the US are faced with daily staffing challenges in order to meet the healthcare needs of their patients. These facilities and practices will continue to face pressure as 78 million baby boomers begin to turn 65 in 2011. Accordingly, it is contemplated that healthcare facilities will continue to turn to nationwide locum tenens firms such as Barton Associates to assist in recruiting and staffing their facilities. Locum Tenens positions afford physicians the opportunity to provide valuable patient care while at the same time afford flexibility and freedom from the burdens brought about by high malpractice fees, overhead costs, administrative hassles, and hospital politics.
More information about working as a locum tenens physician or using locum tenens physicians is available atwww.bartonassociates.com.
Robert D. Indresano is President and COO of Barton Associates (“Barton”) and has nearly nine years experience as an attorney in the temporary staffing industry. Barton is a national locum tenens provider of physicians headquartered in Massachusetts. You can contact Robert at Barton Associates at 1-877-341-9606 or through their website:www.bartonassociates.com.
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The Wall Street Journal. 12 April 2010
 Croasdale, Myrle. “Baby boomer time bomb: Too Many Aging Patients, Too Few Geriatricians.” amednews.com. 5 May 2008