Locum tenens may seem like a very foreign word. And it definitely is, especially if you don’t speak Latin. The term, which means ‘placeholder’ in the said classical language, is often used to describe an individual who fulfills the tasks of another person on a temporary basis.

If you’re a healthcare practitioner, you may have heard of locus tenens as medical staff, typically hospital doctors, who perform their duties in healthcare facilities for a short and pre-defined period.

This means that a locum tenens hospitalist is a part-time employee of a medical facility. As freelance worker, they’re under a formal agreement to work full-time in a hospital for a certain period, for instance, six months or one year.

This employment arrangement has been going on for several years. According to the Harvard Business Review, the United States first used locum tenens in hospital settings in the 70s, with the demand for short-term physicians dramatically increasing over the years. In fact, outsourcing recruitment firm leader, Staffing Industry Associates, estimates that locum tenens physicians hold a huge chunk of the industry, with a total segment cost of USD$2 billion.

Before signing into this type of working arrangement, medical professionals should take time and heed the following considerations:

The Benefits of Locum Tenens

  • Reduces the likelihood of human errors

Because of the aging population and retiring doctors, the Association of American Medical Colleges projects that physician shortage may reach 139,000 by 2033. Pre-pandemic, medical physicians, especially those who work in the emergency room, were already susceptible to heavy workload. Doctors’ burnout increases the likelihood of medical errors, making it an alarming situation.

By working as a locum tenens physician, you’re allowed to take some rest when your physically and mentally unprepared. This allows practitioners to provide the best attention and care for patients.

Since doctors can focus properly and provide the appropriate treatment, hospital facilities can prevent potential medical malpractice lawsuits. Get the additional information you need from the Locum Tenens Guy.

  • Work on your own schedule

Since locum tenens employees can set their own schedule, they can take the time off when they need to refresh. Hence, being a locus tenens hospitalist offers an individual great flexibility.

By working under this agreement, you’re allowed to work when you’re ready or go on-duty only when emergencies and last-minute needs crop up. For instance, you can schedule your work on weekends or holidays so you can spend more days with your loved ones. You can keep your full-time job at a hospital where you have an agreement and spend a few hours in another hospital to earn more.

Simply put, you’re allowed to work whenever and wherever you want, allowing you to have better control over your time while improving your earning opportunities.

  • A good step for a career change

As a healthcare practitioner who wishes to advance or change careers, you can get into an agreement with a hospital from outside of your state to test the waters, so to speak. If you’ve been in a rut working for a rural medical facility for years, consider being a locus tenens hospitalist in a bigger and busier hospital in one of the urban areas.

A temporary assignment in any medical facility will help you acquire experience and help you decide whether working in a new environment is best for you.

  • Increases your earning capacity

In itself, hospital workers’ salaries are competitive. However, you may earn better if you become a locum tenens hospitalist. This is because your pay rates are likely higher compared to physicians working full-time and on a permanent contract in the same medical facility. If hired through a staffing agency, the firm will likely take charge of the additional costs, insurances, transportation, and accommodation costs.

  • You can mix business with pleasure

If you’ve always wanted to visit other places, accepting a temporary position in the state of your choice can get you there. Having the freedom to show up to work on specific days per week, you can spend the long weekends and holidays with your family.

For example, being a locum tenens hospitalist makes it easier to go camping in the wilderness of Maine and New Hampshire or spend days lounging on the beaches of Florida.

The Downsides of Locus Tenens

Being a locum tenens employee has its disadvantages, though. Here are some discouraging things about working temporarily in a hospital are:

  • You may have to make major adjustments

Depending on how you are as a person, you may have to make major changes in your routine, working modalities, and almost everything that’s work-related. Odds are, the hospital you’re temporarily working for will have its own set of policies, terms, management style, and staff personalities. As a newbie, you have to hit the ground running and must adjust to these things, including the use of some hospital record systems or patient software.

If you’re always looking for a new adventure or challenge, this may be favorable to you. On the other hand, if you’re hesitant to get out of your comfort zone, this may become a major challenge. To help you out, this site provides valuable information about succeeding as a locum tenens physician.

  • Pay cuts from staffing firms

Even if you’re earning a high salary as a locum tenens hospitalist, your staffing agency will take some cuts from your paycheck as payment for the costs incurred for the accommodation, travel, licensing, among other administrative fees.

  •   Work may take too much time away from your family

Most locums placements are located outside of your home state, which means you may have to take a lot of time traveling to and from your workplace. To work around this challenge, some take shorter shifts just to have more family time. Others take their family along with them, although this may be difficult if your spouse is also working.

You can either accept a placement near your hometown and take a few hours to go home on weekends. Otherwise, you can accept a position in a hospital close to the airport to drastically cut travel times.

  • You’re in charge of your own benefits

In the absence of a permanent position in a hospital elsewhere, you’re not entitled to have state-mandated benefits. Hence, you’ll be in charge of looking and paying for your own insurance, including malpractice, life, health, disability policies, to name a few.

A good option would be to have your spouse include you in their insurance payments.

Final Thoughts

Because of the ever-increasing demand for physicians and healthcare professional services, the number of locum tenens hospitalists will continue to rise. While the costs of hiring a placeholder may be higher than getting a permanent employee, hospitals can save on insurances, benefits, as well as training costs.

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