Advice and Insights March 11, 2017

By Phil Miller, contributor

Survey: Use of Temporary (Locum Tenens) Physicians Increasing

IRVING, Texas – A growing number of hospitals and other healthcare facilities are using temporary physicians to fill gaps in their medical staffs, according to a new survey from Staff Care, the nation’s leading temporary physician staffing firm and a company of AMN Healthcare.

94% of Healthcare Facilities Used Temporary Doctors in 2016, Up from 74% in 2012

Staff Care’s 2017 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends indicates that 94% of hospitals, medical groups, and other healthcare facilities used temporary doctors in 2016, up from 91% in 2014 and 74% in 2012. Referred to as “locum tenens” (Latin for “to take the place of”), temporary doctors are being used primarily to maintain services while healthcare facilities seek additional permanent staff or to fill openings created by turnover, the survey indicates.

“Virtually every hospital in the United States now uses locum tenens doctors,” said Sean Ebner, president of Staff Care. “They are emerging as a key part of the medical workforce in an era of physician shortages and evolving delivery models.”

According to Ebner, locum tenens physicians can fill openings that may last for months at a time while healthcare facilities seek difficult-to-find primary care physicians and specialists. They also can be used to fill in when healthcare facilities experience turnover on their medical staff, an event made more likely by the growing employment of physicians by hospitals and other healthcare facilities. As the employed physician model replaces physician practice ownership, physicians have more latitude to change jobs, according to Ebner, creating more temporary openings and hence enhanced demand for locum tenens physicians. Employed physicians commonly enjoy a month of vacation and continuing education time off per year, which also creates demand for locum tenens doctors, Ebner said.


Flexibility Main Attraction For Locum Tenens Physicians

In addition to polling healthcare facility managers about their use of locum tenens physicians, the survey also asked approximately 900 physicians who work as locum tenens about their experiences. The majority of locum tenens physicians work between one and three temporary assignments per year, 75% are 51 years old or older, 43% are in a permanent position but “moonlight” on temporary jobs, and most (89%) cite freedom and flexibility as the primary benefits of working as a “locum,” the survey indicates. In an analysis accompanying survey results, Staff Care estimates some 48,000 physicians worked locum tenens in 2016, almost double the number in 2002.

According to Ebner, many physicians today are seeking alternatives to traditional, full-time medical practice ownership, and locum tenens is one of a variety of choices they can make. Others include part-time practice, employment by a hospital or other organization, administrative-only practice, and concierge medicine. Older physicians may use locum tenens as a way to semi-retire, while younger physicians may work locum tenens to “test drive” various practice locations and styles, Ebner said. The great majority use staffing companies like Staff Care to find temporary assignments. The staffing company typically pays a daily rate, while covering malpractice, transportation and accommodation costs, though locum tenens physicians maintain their independent contractor status. Though some bureaucratic duties come with the job, locum tenens physicians are relatively free to focus on patient care, according to Ebner.

“Locum tenens physicians play a vital role within healthcare due to their flexibility and ability to engage rapidly,” Ebner said. “They quickly enter new situations, do their best to improve the lives of patients, and then move to the next assignment. Many doctors find this arrangement a very rewarding and relatively hassle-free style of practice.”

For complete results of Staff Care’s 2017 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends, please call us at (888) 866 5510. You can also access the full survey here.

About Staff Care And AMN Healthcare

Staff Care is a leading healthcare staffing firm providing temporary physicians, advanced practitioners and dentists to hospitals, medical groups, government facilities, and other healthcare organizations nationwide. Staff Care is a company of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AMN) and is the sponsor the Country Doctor of the Year Award. For more information about AMN Healthcare, please visit

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