Physician’s Guide To Locum Tenens

What Is Locum Tenens?

Locum tenens is a Latin term meaning “to hold the place of”. In healthcare, it refers to a temporary healthcare professional who fills in for a permanent staff member who is absent or unavailable, such as a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. The locum tenens provider provides the same medical services as the permanent staff member and typically works on a contract basis.

The concept of locum tenens has its roots in the early days of medicine, when healthcare providers would temporarily fill in for their colleagues who were unable to work due to illness, injury, or other reasons. The use of locum tenens providers became more widespread in the 20th century as the demand for healthcare services increased and as more healthcare professionals sought greater flexibility in their work arrangements. The growth of locum tenens has continued in recent years, driven in part by the increasing shortage of healthcare providers and the need for healthcare organizations to maintain staffing levels to meet the needs of their patients.

Finding Locum Positions

There are several ways for a doctor to find a locum tenens job:

  1. Locum tenens agencies: These agencies specialize in connecting healthcare providers with locum tenens opportunities. The agencies handle the administrative tasks, such as credentialing and contract negotiation, and match the doctor with a suitable job opportunity.
  2. Online job boards: Websites such as,, and offer a variety of locum tenens opportunities for doctors to search and apply for.
  3. Networking: Doctors can reach out to their professional networks and colleagues to ask about current or upcoming locum tenens opportunities.
  4. Direct contact with healthcare facilities: Doctors can also contact healthcare facilities directly to inquire about any locum tenens opportunities they may have.

Should I Work With An Agency?

Working with a locum tenens agency can provide several benefits to doctors, including:

  1. Increased flexibility: Locum tenens positions allow doctors to choose when and where they want to work, providing them with greater control over their schedules and work-life balance.
  2. Variety of opportunities: Locum tenens agencies offer a range of job opportunities across different specialties, geographies, and types of healthcare facilities, giving doctors the opportunity to work in new and different environments.
  3. Competitive pay: Locum positions often offer competitive pay rates, with many agencies offering higher hourly rates than traditional permanent positions.
  4. Professional development: Locum positions can provide doctors with the opportunity to develop new skills and gain experience in different healthcare settings.
  5. Easy credentialing: Agencies typically handle the process of credentialing and licensing, making it easier for doctors to start working in new locations.
  6. Support and resources: Working with a locum tenens agency provides doctors with access to support and resources, such as housing assistance, travel arrangements, and professional liability insurance.

Do Locums Jobs Pay More?

Locum physicians can earn more money compared to permanent positions in certain circumstances. In many cases, locum tenens positions offer higher hourly rates compared to permanent positions, and locum physicians are often paid for travel, housing, and other expenses. Additionally, locum physicians may have the opportunity to work multiple locum tenens positions simultaneously, which can result in higher earnings.

However, the earning potential for locum physicians can vary widely depending on a variety of factors, including the specialty, location, and duration of the assignment. Some locum tenens positions may offer lower pay rates compared to permanent positions, so it’s important for locum physicians to carefully research and compare different job opportunities before making a decision.

It’s also worth noting that the higher pay rates associated with locum tenens positions may be offset by the lack of benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans, that are typically provided by permanent positions. As a result, locum physicians need to consider the full range of compensation and benefits when evaluating the financial benefits of locum tenens work.

Locums Hourly Rate By Specialty

How Are Locum Tenens Physicians Paid?

The method of payment for locum tenens physicians varies depending on the arrangement between the locum tenens agency and the healthcare facility. In some cases, the healthcare facility may pay the locum tenens agency directly, and the agency in turn pays the physician. In other cases, the healthcare facility may pay the locum tenens physician directly.

Regardless of the payment arrangement, locum tenens agencies typically handle the administrative tasks related to payroll, taxes, and other financial issues, making it easier for locum physicians to focus on providing patient care.

The classification of a locum tenens physician as a 1099 independent contractor or a W-2 employee depends on the specific agreement between the locum tenens physician and the locum tenens agency or healthcare facility.

If a locum tenens physician is classified as a 1099 independent contractor, they are responsible for paying their own self-employment taxes and for providing their own benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans. They may also be eligible for certain tax deductions related to their work as a locum tenens physician.

If a locum tenens physician is classified as a W-2 employee, they are typically eligible for benefits, such as health insurance and paid time off, provided by the locum tenens agency or healthcare facility. They are also typically subject to the same payroll taxes as other employees and may not be eligible for the same tax deductions as 1099 independent contractors.

What Specialties Offer Locum Tenens Positions?

Locum tenens positions are available for a wide range of medical specialties, including primary care, psychiatry, emergency medicine, anesthesiology, radiology, and many others. However, the availability of locum tenens positions can vary depending on the region and the specific medical specialty.

In general, specialties with a higher demand for physician services, such as emergency medicine and psychiatry, may have a greater number of locum tenens positions available. On the other hand, specialties with a lower demand for physician services may have fewer locum tenens opportunities.

The availability of locum tenens positions can fluctuate over time, depending on factors such as changes in patient demand, physician supply, and healthcare regulations. As a result, locum tenens physicians may need to be flexible and open to different types of job opportunities in order to secure a steady stream of work.

Starting A Locums Position Out Of Residency

Should a graduating resident start with a locum tenens position as their first job? Of course it depends on exactly what you are looking for beyond residency and what you are prepared to handle, but locums positions can be attractive opportunities for freshly graduated residents. It can provide flexibility, far beyond what was available in residency, but also requires flexibility from the physician to meet the demands of a consistently changing landscape.

A locums job may also pay more, but potentially provide less stability. Certainly some see locums as a way to continue to hone your skills and be exposed to new environments and systems as well. Each person has a unique decision to make. Just know that there is a growing amount of resources to help you in your decision making process, both on Rethinking Residency and elsewhere.