The Locum Tenens Industry is Booming: What Physician Recruiters Should Know

Posted by Doximity TF Team

locumtenensThe popularity and necessity of locum tenens is rapidly growing. Nearly 50,000 physicians work locum tenens assignments each year – caring for an estimated 7.5 million Americans (that’s up from 26,000 in 2002) – and 94% of U.S. healthcare facilities now use locum tenens providers annually (per Staff Care’s most recent Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends). Nurse Practitioners (NPs), Physician Assistants (PAs) and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are also in demand in the locum tenens arena, and their numbers are growing too: NPs and PAs both rank among the 10 most utilized locum tenens healthcare professionals.

There are numerous reasons healthcare organizations and physicians turn to locum tenens, but the four primary reasons the locum tenens industry is booming in 2019 include:

  1. The growing physician shortage (per a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, which predicts a shortage of up to 121,300 physicians in the U.S. by 2032).
  2. Physician turnover, attributed to burnout and other factors, is high. The average hospital turnover rate in 2017 was 18.2%, which is the highest recorded turnover in the industry for almost a decade (per a study by National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report).  
  3. The majority of the existing physician workforce is aging: 1 in 3 practicing physicians in the U.S. is over the age of 55, and many of these doctors are expected to retire within the next 10-15 years (per Health Leaders Magazine).  
  4. Physicians will still get ill, have family emergencies, take vacations and sabbaticals, etc. 

Primary care and shift-work specialties are in demand for locum tenens

While primary care specialties are currently in high demand, most medical specialties will require locum tenens services at some point. The top 10 most utilized locum tenens healthcare professionals (per Staff Care’s most recent Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends) are:

  1. Primary Care
  2. Behavioral Health
  3. Hospitalists
  4. Emergency Medicine
  5. Nurse Practitioners
  6. Urgent Care
  7. Anesthesiology
  8. Surgery
  9. Physician Assistants
  10. Internal Medicine Subspecialties

Doctors at almost any level of their career are a great fit for locum tenens

Newly-minted doctors: Locum tenens is a great option for doctors who are just finishing their training; it’s a great way to gain important work experience and income before they make a decision about where to land permanently. They can evaluate settings, types of practices, different schedules, and even facility sizes and locations while they’re looking for the right long-term opportunity to start their career. 

Mid-Career Physicians: Doctors with a few years of experience under their belt are working locum tenens for a variety of reasons. The part-time work helps them earn extra income on their days off. Working locums full-time (as opposed to a permanent full-time position) allows flexibility to raise their children or have a better work/life balance; some physicians also work a locum tenens assignment between jobs or when a planned career opportunity doesn’t pan out.

Physicians who are approaching retirement, semi-retired, or just want to cut back on work hours and responsibilities: Locum tenens is a great transitional step for doctors late in their careers. It’s a great way to travel (on assignment) and many take spouses and children along for the ride. Some doctors who don’t want to fully retire find satisfaction working part-time as locum tenens. Numerous other physicians choose locum work so they can work for a few weeks at a time, then have time off between for vacations or downtime between assignments.
In the past, locums was reserved for physicians at the end of their careers, however as you can see there are convincing reasons for a physician at any stage to work locums, and selling the lifestyle is just as important as it is when selling a permanent job. That said, it’s important to highlight that 79% of physicians find temporary locum tenens work as satisfying or more satisfying as working in a permanent practice (per the same Staff Care survey). In fact, many are choosing locum tenens as a full-time option because it allows for more flexibility and that much sought-after work/life balance.

Are you recruiting physicians for locum tenens opportunities? We invite you to check back here in the upcoming months to more about locum tenens industry trends – and its impact on the physician recruiting and healthcare landscape. In the meantime, you can fine tune your skills as a social recruiter by checking out our guide.

Read the Social Recruting Guide

Topics: locum tenens

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