Locum tenens for nurse practitioners: A guide to getting started

May 16th, 2024 7 Min read Locum tenens for nurse practitioners: A guide to getting started Blog

Sophia Khawly, ARNP, MSN, shares her tips on how to get started if you are an NP interested in working locum tenens.

Many people are familiar with the concept of travel nurses, though less so with locum tenens. Locum tenens is a Latin word for substitute. It applies to travel work opportunities for providers such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physicians. The difference in terminology mainly accounts for the length of service provided. For example, travel nurse assignments are typically a 13-week contract. On the other hand, locum tenens assignments can range from one day to one year.

State licensing for locum tenens NPs

To practice as a locum nurse practitioner, you must have a license in the given state. Each state has its own licensing requirements and levels of autonomy. This can vary from needing 75 hours of pharmacology continuing education credits to needing a supervising physician.

For instance, states like Washington and Maine allow nurse practitioners to work independently. On the other hand, Georgia and North Carolina require nurse practitioners to work under a supervising physician.

Have licensing questions? What NPs and CRNAs need to know about the APRN compact

Demand for locum tenens NPs

Locum tenens opportunities for nurse practitioners are more prevalent in autonomous practice states and rural communities. Primary care and behavioral health specialties are in the most demand, and acute care nurse practitioners have become increasingly popular with the recent pandemic.

Image of statement that most locums opportunities for NPs are in rural or autonomous practice areas

Schedule flexibility for NPs working locums

Compared to working as a nurse practitioner in a staff role, locum tenens allows more flexibility. Do you only want to work four days a week? That’s fine. Don't want to work holidays? That works too. If you don't want to be on call — just let your recruiter know! Some nurse practitioners work locum tenens in addition to their full-time jobs to add extra skills or income.

Image of statement that locums allows for more schedule flexibility for NPs

Locum tenens pay for NPs

Locum tenens nurse practitioners can earn substantially higher pay compared to employed NPs. Because you fill a need, you establish yourself as an expert in your field and will earn compensation accordingly. You can even negotiate a higher rate if they ask you to extend your contract.

Image of statement that locum tenens pay can be higher for NPs than staff positions

When you work beyond 40 hours a week, you will also be compensated for that overtime. This differs from an employee who may work more than 40 hours a week but isn’t paid for those additional hours. Not to mention that, as a locum, your housing, car, travel, and often your benefits are paid for.

Dollars and cents: How pay works for locum tenens NPs

Training and credentialing for locum tenens work

Working in locum tenens, you would have to learn the different electronic health records that each facility uses. Orientation is usually provided and can range from several hours to several days. In addition, your recruiter facilitates credentialing so that it gets done before you start an assignment.

Locum tenens NP and patient

Care for patients and forming relationships

Patient interactions are similar for both locums and staff nurse practitioners. You can still utilize your skills by obtaining a history, performing a physical exam, diagnosing, and placing orders. Most patients cannot tell if you are there full-time or just helping out. If you are providing coverage for three months, you may even see the same patient multiple times.

The only difference is when it is time to leave, it may be challenging to say goodbye to your “favorite” patients. The patients often feel disappointed that you will not be there permanently. Still, forming patient bonds while on an assignment is one of the most fulfilling parts of the job.

It is amazing how many relationships you can form in such a short time. Whether the assignment is one week or one year, the staff are often very welcoming and friendly. The staff providers do not mind if you ask them for help.

Flexibility with support staff

Since you are filling in, you may not have a designated medical assistant or nurse. So, you have to be flexible and open to the fact that you may be working with whoever is available that day. And depending on the assignment, you might even be the sole provider in the office.

Ultimately, over the last decade, the supply of nurse practitioners has almost tripled. This has led to an increase in demand for nurse practitioners in locum tenens. As stated above, being a locum tenens nurse practitioner has countless benefits.

Want to learn more? Call 800.453.3030 or view today's locum tenens job opportunities for nurse practitioners.


Sophia Khawly, ARNP, MSN

Sophia Khawly has been a locum tenens nurse practitioner for more than six years. She has worked in nine different states and about 20 different practices. This Miami native likes to travel in her spare time as well, and has visited over 40 countries. Being a locum tenens nurse practitioner allows her to combine her love of learning, travel, and serving others. Learn more about Sophia at www.travelingNP.com.

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