Exploding 7 locum tenens myths: a physician's perspective

September 14th, 2022 5 Min read Exploding 7 locum tenens myths: a physician's perspective Blog

How would you like to practice medicine in a model in which:

  • Malpractice is taken care of.
  • You decide if you would take call, and for how many days.
  • You may get paid more for covering call on any official state or federal holiday.
  • You decide when you would like to take vacation and for how long.
  • You have minimal administrative duties to manage.

Not possible you say? Think again, because that's exactly what the model of a locum tenens practice can be. Find out more about each misconception below:

1. Locum tenens can’t be a real job

Believe it or not, the locum tenens position frequently becomes the most important focus in a community setting. The locum tenens provider is looked upon as a leader and is relied upon to provide new services, or maintain a specific medical or surgical service or specialty which the health care delivery system depends on. Circumstances do arise in which a present or former provider may no longer be available due to illness, a family move, or a change of practice circumstance, and the locum provider steps in for a specific purpose.

2. Locum tenens is only for older doctors

The truth is that locums providers may be fresh out of residency or fellowship training. A recent graduate is someone who actively has provided many patient care episodes, and is the most up-to-date with present, focused medical training. A community or hospital setting therefore, has an opportunity to have health care delivered by a physician who is recently experienced in any new medical treatment protocols, and may have just learned the most pertinent medical information taught in current medical education.

CompHealth - locum tenens myths - image of two young medical professionals talking over a patient episode on a locum tenens assignment

3. Locums providers tend to be inexperienced

Providers in semi-retirement or transitioning into retirement through locums tend to be highly experienced. Communities and hospitals seek providers like these in many specialties to supplement their established staff. Physicians can often be paired based on similar educational or clinical background to provide greater continuity of service to patients. This arrangement is ideal for both the permanent physician and the locums provider because it gives them both more freedom to balance their schedules. Having experienced locums providers on the team gives later career physicians the opportunity to cut back on their hours without interrupting service to the patient community.

4. Locums providers don’t connect with patients

Just because locums assignments are temporary, that doesn't mean that these providers don't connect with their patients. Time spent on a given patient episode is often made at the discretion of the locum tenens provider. Clinics generally calibrate time allowances per patient episode based on the number of patient care visits anticipated each day. In addition, because locums providers often have fewer meetings and administrative duties than permanent staff, they have more freedom to focus on patient care without extending their work day.

5. Doctors who do locums can’t get full time work

It turns out that full time work is abundant for locums providers. Regular practices can be set up with recurring visits to the same facility, as much as the provider wishes. Some locums providers have practiced full time solo with recurring assignments. Other providers have assignments of up to 3 weeks per month, recurring. Another common coverage style is 2 weeks per month. This essentially becomes a job-sharing situation in which the time spent at an assignment is totally up to the provider.

6. A locum tenens opportunity can harm a resume

Many locum tenens providers report that because they've experienced numerous practice settings, patient populations, and clinical approaches, their resumes are actually more attractive to the hiring facilities. A history of successful locums assignments also shows adaptability, versatility, and a high level of commitment to professional development. Permanent staff and younger physicians tend to rely on locums providers for their maturity, confidence, and advanced clinical problem solving skills.

7. Locums providers get stuck with bad locations

When you work locum tenens, you're the captain of your own ship. Yes, some physicians do choose to visit remote or depressed locations, but not because they're forced to go. Often these are clinicians who have a passion for under-served patient populations, or a professional drive to broaden their experience with cases they might not see in their home locations. As a locum tenens provider, you're in charge of what assignments you take, where they are, and how long they last. When you work with the right recruiter, they're always working to connect you with the job matches that best fit your lifestyle and location preferences.

This article was updated on 9/14/2022.


Dr. Laura Bruse

Dr. Bruse is an orthopedic surgeon who has practiced medicine for over 20 years and have been working locum tenens assignments off and on since 2006. She attended medical school at LSU Shreveport and did a foot and ankle Fellowship in Little Rock, Arkansas. She has completed over 50 locum tenens assignments in 6 different states and carry active licensure in four states.

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