Locum Tenens: What’s the deal?

Veni vidi vici, carpe diem, semper fidelis – Latin phrases have a way of embellishing ordinary phrases into bold declarations. An important Latin phrase in the medical field is: Locum Tenens. Literal translation: “to hold the place of.”

You’ve heard of locum tenens, worked alongside locum tenens, and have maybe even considered becoming one yourself, but you want to know the full story. Well, this is the place for just that!

Wanted! Doctors.

A shrinking supply of doctors and a growing population across the US has been the impetus behind what has become one of the largest challenges for the health community. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), by 2030 there could be a shortage of 120,000 physicians across the nation. This is largely due to an aging baby boomer generation. It’s simple math: more doctors retiring + more patients needing care = doctor shortage.

The fix? Well, there isn’t one yet.

What’s been working so far?

  1. Bringing in more foreign doctors. The New York Times reported around 25 percent of all physicians practicing or training in the United States are foreign. Does having a foreign doctor sound like a familiar story? Nod your head yes.
  2. Full-time practitioners becoming Locum Tenens. One specialist doctor working in 3 locations part-time is more efficient than three specialist doctors working in three locations full-time.


Hospitals are hiring more and more Locum Tenens to fill their increasingly specialized needs. According to a study done by Staff Care, in 2017 94% of hospitals and healthcare facilities use temporary physicians, an increase from 91% in 2014, and 74% in 2012.

Locum Tenens

Let’s get into the meat-and-potatoes of the matter: what’s the appeal to becoming a Locum, and why are more and more healthcare professionals making the switch?

  1. You get paid more.

Depending on the job, a healthcare professional can make from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars more per day working as a locum. If you’re qualified for the position, you get paid accordingly, and any time over 8-hours (usually) grants additional pay. Say goodbye to off-the-clock hours!

  1. Same benefits +

Thought your perks as a medical professional were great? Locum tenens have the same benefits as their traditional counterparts, and more. Locum tenens tend to get a proportional number of paid vacation and sick days to their traditional doctor counterparts. So say you would normally get 1-month paid vacation per year, as a temp on a 6-month assignment you’ll probably be looking at two weeks of paid vacation, maybe more.

On top of all that, many companies will pay for your airfare and temporary lodging as you transition to your new assignment.

  1. Freer schedule

Ever wanted to take 2 months off? 4 months off? As a temp doctor, you can take as much time off between assignments as your choose.

A hospital needs you to cover 12 shifts a month for them. They’re the ones needing you, so they’re willing to change around the schedule to fit your preferences. Don’t want to work Fridays? Now you don’t have to!

  1. Slow down burnout

The medical field is no joke; the personal sacrifice that traditional doctors go through is immense, to say the least. For some doctors, working 50+ hours a week and being on call 24/7 for a particular patient is normal, making it no surprise that 54.4% of all physicians reported at least 1 symptom of burnout in a 2015 Mayo Clinic survey.

As a locum, not only does your schedule free up, but you also get to change where you work more often. Something as simple as changing where and who you work with can be a refreshing and rejuvenating experience. Why wait for burnout to catch you? Get a head start by changing up your work life.