For most of us, the idea of a traveling, or per diem, nurse is pretty commonplace.
Physicians and other medical professionals use a similar approach as well, and that is called locum tenens.
Both of these ideas allow trained, experienced doctors, nurses (RNs and NPs), physician assistants (PAs), and nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) to work on schedules that benefit them while providing services that benefit patients and healthcare facilities.
How It All Started
Drs. Therus Kolff and Alan Kronhaus met at the University of Utah and launched the concept of locum tenens in the 1970s. Their original goal was to provide excellent medical care to residents of rural communities that lacked close access to hospitals.
Their framework was to attract medical professionals with short-term assignments that allowed everyone to benefit. The doctors received a grant for their program, and they began placing physicians into communities in the Western United States.
The program was named locum tenens, which is a Latin phrase for “to hold the place of; to substitute for.”
Put simply, a locum tenens doctor is a temporary doctor who helps hospitals meet their staffing needs to make sure that patients get the care they need when they need it.
Locum Tenens Today
With nearly 30 companies in the locum tenens industry, it’s clear that this practice has grown in the last 40 years—and seems destined to stay.
Today, thousands of physicians, CRNAs, PAs, and NPs contract with locum tenens agencies to find short-term assignments at hospitals across the country.
The medical professionals who are placed through locum tenens agencies may be used to cover a shortage, in lieu of full-time staff, or to provide support during a tenured physician’s leave of absence.
Physicians from all areas of expertise are placed in these short-term positions.
Benefits of Locum Tenens
There are a number of great things about the idea of locum tenens, for the medical professionals, hospitals, and patients.
Benefits for Physicians
Whether a physician is starting his career, considering changing specialties, or just wants to have more control over his time, locum tenens is a perfect choice.
The locum tenens doctor can try out different aspects of the medical field in small or large facilities and in small or large communities. For those just starting out, a temporary position could even turn into a long-term opportunity.
In addition, the locum tenens agency provides medical malpractice insurance and covers travel and housing during the assignment.
Benefits for Hospitals
In a rural community, a hospital may have challenges attracting qualified physicians. But through a locum tenens agency, those physicians come to them.
A busier community may have enough full-time staff but need additional assistance during holidays, travel seasons, or when universities are in session.
Locum tenens physicians are also the perfect solution to cover medical leaves, such as maternity.
Hospitals are ensured that candidates are credentialed and hold current licenses, plus they don’t have to worry about medical malpractice insurance, housing, or managing payroll.
Hospitals can hire locum tenens professionals for a few days a week or several weeks or months, depending on their needs.
Benefits for Patients
From the patients’ perspective, locum tenens physicians are exactly the same as their regular hospitalists. Patients may even see a higher dedication from locum tenens doctors because they are fresh and move around to new assignments regularly.
Temporary physicians are also driven to provide excellent patient care.
They are on review every single day and know how important patient satisfaction is to their continued success.