Locum tenens is an option for nearly every physician specialty, but there are certain specialties where demand continues to be high. Practitioners in these specialties have their pick of assignments all over the country, providing them with greater schedule flexibility, better work/life balance, and unique travel experiences. Here are the top specialties for locum tenens.
1. Family medicine
Family medicine continues to be one of the top specialties for locum tenens. Not only is demand for this specialty growing faster than average, but the AAMC has projected a shortage of up to 55,200 family medicine physicians by 2032. That’s a big opportunity for locums family medicine physicians to help fill the gap.
Dr. Colin Zhu works locum tenens full-time and doesn’t see the need for his services slowing down any time soon. “As a primary care physician, we’re already in demand, and it allows me to be like a free agent. Because of the vastness of opportunities available, I can decide where I can go based off my preferences.”
Another family medicine physician, Dr. Lexi Mitchell Sanchez, appreciates the control she has over her own schedule. As a locums doctor, she’s less involved in the administrative issues at the hospital. “I’m okay with that because it takes up a lot of time and energy, and I can just go in and see patients and leave. There’s not a whole lot of things I have to worry about when I’m at work, and I almost always finish on time.”
OB/GYNs are already in short supply. In 2017, half of U.S. counties didn’t have a single OB/GYN. This means women either don’t have access to much-needed care or they must travel long distances to see a physician. Both scenarios can have serious effects on a woman’s health, which makes what locum tenens OB/GYNs do even more critical.
Dr. Gina Bell found that working locums was a win-win situation for both her patients and her own needs. She first heard about locums from a colleague. “He had expressed that he thought it was a really good idea for me to look into because he was so pleased with his lifestyle. Knowing my situation with being a single parent, he thought it might be ideal. When I did it, I was really pleasantly surprised to find out how it really worked.”
3. Emergency medicine
The demand for emergency medicine physicians continues to grow around the country. Physicians in this specialty are also subject to a high rate of burnout, with long shifts, high patient volume, and working nights and weekends all contributing to their stressors.
Many locum tenens emergency physicians report that having control over their schedule helps to decrease their stress while allowing them to continue serving patients. Dr. McKayla Sakumura says, “I really enjoy being able to bulk my shifts together. There are so many jobs that need you. So, it’s never that I’m not going to be able to pay my bills, sometimes it’s just a question of where I’ll be working to pay those, but you kind of get used to that flexibility.”
Other physicians like working locums because of the variety of care settings they’re able to experience. Dr. Ricardo Ramos takes assignments in rural facilities. He says, ““Even though I see fewer patients, I am honing my skills like never before. Imagine receiving trauma patients in a small town in the middle of a blizzard when transfers are not an option. I have to act as trauma surgeon, orthopedist, and anything else that is needed.”
The National Council for Behavioral Health reports that there is currently a 6.4% shortage in the psychiatry workforce, and this demand is only expected to grow. By 2025, the expected deficit is projected to be 12%. Due to this shortage, psychiatry is one of the top specialties for locum tenens assignments across the country.
Dr. Heather Cumbo works locum tenens to provide care to those who might not otherwise have access. “There are not a lot of resources for people who have mental health needs, and there are not enough psychiatrists to cover that need. Most of the places that I go and do my assignments are in rural communities. So, it’s not only gratifying that I have the independence that I like but I’m also taking care of people that otherwise would not have any mental health care at all.”
She also appreciates the freedom that locums affords her to schedule time off. “I have colleagues that are employed physicians and because of the patient care demand they frequently are not able to take vacations. Being locums, I can actually block off my own periods of time where I take vacation when I want to take it, and then I work locums around my vacations.”
5. Internal Medicine
Demand for internal medicine physicians to work in hospitalist positions is growing faster than average at 10 to 14%. Working with patients in fast-paced hospital wards at all hours of the day and night, doctors who work as hospitalists face many stressors in their work environment.
Dr. Paymon Kayhani works locums full-time and doesn’t miss having a permanent job. His flexible schedule allows him to participate in medical missions when he’s not on assignment, and he never feels at a loss for work. “I realized that there was an immense amount of work out there as a locums and that I could have the constancy that I depended on as a permanent hospitalist. I could in fact continue to work exclusively locums, and I’ve been in that capacity now for two full years with no interruptions and no loss of contracts.”
Dr. Tammy Allen echoes this. “If you are willing to travel, you have security in your job as a locum because we are needed all over.” She frequently takes time off in between assignments to travel for leisure and enjoys knowing that she’ll have another assignment available when she wants to work again.