At Staff Care, we often discuss the many career benefits that come with locum tenens work. From the opportunity to work a flexible, customized schedule, to the chance to build experience in practice settings of all shapes and sizes nationwide, those benefits are well known to many physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who are already working locums assignments throughout the United States.
But there's another factor crucial to those considering working locum tenens assignments: How does locum tenens salary compare to regular practice, and how do physicians and practitioners typically manage the sometimes-complicated world of locum tenens finance?
Overview of Locum Tenens Salary & Finance
Locum tenens work can be richly rewarding, giving you the chance to help out healthcare facilities facing personnel shortages. And — thanks in no small part to the nation's current, ongoing physician shortage and the work opportunities that shortage presents — working locum tenens assignments can also include a significant financial reward. In fact, it's now possible in some specialties for locum tenens physicians to earn more than working in a permanent practice.
Here's the basic scenario: When physicians or advanced practitioners choose to accept assignments with a locum tenens staffing company like Staff Care, they will earn a per diem salary, in addition to extra compensation for overtime, call and weekend work.
As far as compensation for locum tenens physicians, the daily rate varies by specialty, as they do for permanent positions. However, primary care physicians — who are among the most in-demand locum tenens physicians — typically have a daily rate of about $600 to $800.
"A primary care physician working as a locum tenens full-time can easily generate about $150,000 a year in income, somewhat less than a private-practice physician or an employed physician," Staff Care President Sean Ebner told Medscape in 2012.
“With overtime shifts, they can earn considerably more," Ebner notes, adding that a "locum tenens physician should never pay a fee to an agency."
In our 2015 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends, 53 percent of all respondents — MDs, PAs and NPs — ranked locum tenens salary rate as the second most desirable benefit of locums work.
By way of comparison, the first benefit was "freedom/flexibility," which 85 percent of respondents cited as their favorite benefit. Lack of politics, the ability to travel, and professional development opportunities ranked third, fourth and fifth on the list.
Remember, locum tenens salary rates are also dependent upon how often physicians are working locum tenens assignments, which can also vary based on specialty. Although most assignments typically last a couple weeks, some can last up to a year.
According to Ebner, “Some locations have a hard time finding permanent primary care doctors and rely on locum tenens doctors until they can find one, which can take some time."
Locum Tenens Finance: Insurance & Tax Advantages
Additionally, although locum tenens physicians are required to provide their own benefits, they do, in most cases, receive tax advantages as an independent contractor. Working with a staffing agency also provides state licensure, medical malpractice coverage, privileging, travel and housing — all of which is not only extremely convenient, but often helps save time and money, too.
Physicians who disregard malpractice insurance do so at their own risk — indeed, a misstep could cost millions. However, an added benefit with working with a locum tenens staffing agency is that they consistently monitor malpractice policies to make sure there aren’t any complications.
Financial gains vary for each locum tenens physician or advanced practitioner given a list of factors including experience, skill set and location, among factors. Regardless, there are clear benefits for every locum tenens worker. On top of having malpractice insurance coverage, privileging, travel and housing, there are also competitive daily compensation rates for locum tenens clinicians and physicians that make working locum tenens an attractive opportunity.
> Useful Tools: Download Staff Care's 2015 Compilation of Physician Compensation Surveys for More Insight into Locum Tenens Salary & Finance.
If you’re a physician or advanced practitioner interested in locum tenens career opportunities, we invite you to search available locum tenens jobs here, or contact us directly here.