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Tips to Hire Locum Tenen Physicians


When the Coronavirus pandemic hit in late 2019, healthcare facilities across the United States were not prepared for the sudden increase in in-patient intake and almost immediately faced a shortage in medical staff. As a work around, healthcare facilities brought in locum tenens to help with the medical crisis. However, the number of locum tenens being hired have increased exponentially in the last three years.

AMN Healthcare’s 2022 Survey of Locum Tenens Staffing Trends report stated that 88% of healthcare facilities employed locum tenen physicians in 2022. A 2023 report by Staffing Industry Analysts forecasted that the locum tenens segment is expected to grow by at least 10% in 2023 and will continue to grow in 2024. Let’s understand the reasons why healthcare facilities are continuing to hire locum tenen physicians, the benefits of hiring locum tenen physicians and how healthcare facilities can hire locum tenen physicians.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term locum tenens, let’s briefly go through the definition of locum tenens. Essentially, locum tenens physicians refer to temporary or substitute physicians who provide healthcare services to healthcare facilities on a short term or contractual basis. Locum tenens physicians generally fill in for regular physicians who might be on annual leave or in case there is a shortage of medical staff. While locum tenen physicians are usually hired through temporary staffing agencies, some locum tenens also work as independent contractors.

The role of locum tenen physicians in the United States healthcare system

Along with catering to the increasing demand for healthcare, locum tenen physicians are making up for the acute shortage of medical staff. They also fill in gaps in staffing during annual leaves, vacations or unexpected absences of full-time medical staff. In a nutshell, locum tenen physicians help ensure that there are no interruptions in patient care.

Locum tenen physicians are usually not limited to general physicians. In fact, most of them tend to work across a wide range of healthcare specialties. These include emergency medicine, surgery, anesthesia etc. They can also take up short-term assignments which can be as short as a few consultations and as lengthy as a few months. Because they work across various healthcare facilities, they tend to have experience of interacting with a diverse range of patients. In fact, they generally have better than usual community engagement skills.

Overall, locum tenens physicians serve as a valuable resource for maintaining the continuity of healthcare services in the United States, filling temporary staffing gaps and contributing to the overall efficiency of the healthcare system.

Advantages of hiring locum tenen physicians

Hiring locum tenen physicians offers several benefits for healthcare facilities. For starters, locum tenen physicians ensure minimal interruptions in patient care, thereby maintaining consistency in healthcare services provided by a healthcare facility. Locum tenen physicians are usually flexible with their schedules and can take over when the regular physicians are unavailable. They are also available at short notice and can be available contractually – thereby allowing healthcare facilities to better manage staffing based on the current demand.

Essentially, locum tenen physicians help healthcare facilities maintain optimal patient to physician ratio. But locum tenen physicians are not just available to fill in gaps in staffing. They can also effectively reduce the burden on the current medical staff. In the past few years, medical staff have been quitting their profession in droves. Locum tenen physicians can help reduce cases of burnout due to increased workload.

Additionally, because locum tenen physicians belong to different specialties they can help healthcare facilities manage staffing needs for more than just general medicine, thereby ensuring that patients receive specific treatment as per the medical requirement.

Finally, locum tenen physicians are a cost-effective option in comparison to full time physicians. This is because they are not eligible for any full time employee benefits. Healthcare facilities can save on the cost of employee benefits like annual bonus, retirement and insurance plans as well as any other overhead costs that are usually associated with full time or permanent employees.

The benefits of hiring locum tenens physicians include maintaining continuity of care, flexibility in staffing, access to specialized expertise, reduced workload for existing staff, and potential cost savings. These advantages contribute to efficient healthcare delivery and improved patient outcomes.

Disadvantages of hiring locum tenen physicians

While there are plenty of advantages of hiring locum tenen physicians, there is also a downside.

Locum tenen physicians usually have a rather short adjustment period and might not be able to sync with the healthcare facility’s work ecosystem in their limited time. This can significantly impact healthcare efficiency during the initial stage of the assignment. Additionally, locum tenen physicians are rarely available for follow up care for patients. Transitioning to other physicians can make patients uncomfortable. Finally, the cost of hiring locum tenen physicians can be slightly higher than permanent staff in the long run, even though healthcare institutions don’t have to pay for additional overhead costs.

While these disadvantages exist, they can often be mitigated through effective communication, proper onboarding, and fostering a supportive work environment for locum tenens physicians. If a healthcare facility is looking to hire locum tenen physicians, here are some handy tips.

Tips to hire locum tenen physicians

Clearly define medical staffing requirements

It is important that healthcare institutions clearly specify what kind of locum tenen physicians are required at their facility. These requirements should include qualifications, medical specialty, additional medical certifications, duration, clinical skills, availability etc.

Hire a medical staffing agency

Medical staffing agencies usually have access to a large network of locum tenen physicians and can give healthcare facilities immediate access to a talent pool as per their requirements. Additionally, medical staffing agencies will conduct their own due diligence before passing over medical profiles to the healthcare institution.

Use AI-based healthcare recruiting software solutions

AI can play a valuable role in healthcare recruitment by automating and streamlining various aspects of the process including candidate sourcing and candidate screening. AI-based applicant tracking systems can also streamline candidate management while predictive analysis software can help match candidates as per criteria and introduce the best possible matches to healthcare institutions while eliminating recruiter bias. The advanced AI in Arya is revolutionizing the healthcare recruiting industry by using 300+ parameters and 7 multi-dimensional data points to score and rank talent for compatibility. Arya simultaneously helps source candidates from multiple channels in under 5 minutes, reducing candidate review and shortlisting time by 50%. Request a demo to understand how Arya can help organizations streamline their healthcare staffing challenges and optimize hiring of locum tenen physicians.

The healthcare staffing industry has seen a steady rise in the popularity of locum tenen physicians between 2020 and 2023, mainly due to their ability to discover flexible staffing solutions. The hiring trajectory is expected to grow steadily in 2023 and it is highly likely that locum tenens might represent one of the fast-growing staffing segments in the near future.


  • https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/977617
  • https://www2.staffingindustry.com/Editorial/Healthcare-Staffing-Report/April-13-2023/Summary-of-SIA-s-healthcare-staffing-industry-forecast
  • https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/practices/face-physician-shortage-85-healthcare-facilities-rely-locum-tenens
  • https://revcycleintelligence.com/news/88-of-healthcare-facilities-employed-locum-tenens-providers

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