Locum Psychiatrists Meet a Critical Need

The growing need for professionals who can provide mental healthcare cannot be overstated, especially during stressful events like a global pandemic, or in areas that have a shortage of practitioners. Could psychiatrists who take on locum tenens jobs be part of the solution?

Learn more about locum psychiatry jobs.

An ongoing shortage affected by the pandemic

The 2020 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives, produced by Merritt Hawkins, noted that psychiatrists were the third-most requested recruiting engagements, “reflecting a continued severe shortage of mental health professionals likely to be exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) notes that the United States continues to suffer from “a dramatic shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health providers.”

Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Marc Lener, MD, notes that it’s important to understand that the shortage is not a straightforward shortage. “It’s a shortage in specific areas of the country,” explains Lener, founder and CEO of Singula Institute.

Many rural areas are hurting for providers, while big cities may have an abundance. The distribution does not match up to the demand. Additionally, many providers don’t participate in insurance, which may put access to their services out of reach for some people.

And the coronavirus pandemic has made a bad situation worse.

“We were already facing a national shortage of psychiatrists due to an uneven distribution of psychiatrists across the country,” says Brian Wind, PhD, a clinical psychologist and chief clinical officer of JourneyPure, which provides therapy for addiction patients. “In many rural areas, people do not have access to a psychiatrist or a support network such as support groups or shelters. The pandemic exacerbated the problem and strained the shortages that already exist in our healthcare system.”

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll found that “53% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.” The pandemic has also thrown up some new barriers to accessing care for some people.

Some of the mental health issues induced by the pandemic will subside, says Lener. But for others, the pandemic’s impact on their mental health may linger long after the pandemic itself subsides, which will also affect the demand for care.

“There are going to be a proportion of people who, as a result of this stress, may have longstanding issues like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder,” Lener says.

Healthcare professionals, too, may suffer lingering “psychological distress,” according to the KFF researchers.

To some degree, the expansion of telemedicine has helped. And other types of providers, such as psychiatric nurse practitioners and social workers, can meet some of the need for behavioral and mental health services.  But there is still an acute need for psychiatrists and their medical training.

Enter locum tenens psychiatrists. Locum psychiatrist jobs offer psychiatrists a chance to use their expertise and training to meet the needs of patients who might have trouble getting access to the care that they need. These types of jobs can also provide a welcome change for practitioners, and the chance to work with a different patient population.

If this type of role appeals to you, you might consider where the need for your skills is the greatest, suggests Lener.

What to consider when taking a locum psychiatrist job 

If you’re considering taking on some work as a locum psychiatrist, look at all the options that are available to you and see where you could make a difference. You can ask a recruiter about opportunities in regions or areas of the country where the most openings seem to be.

One thing to keep in mind: it won’t be quite the same as working as a full-time, permanent staff psychiatrist.

“You may feel less bonded to the community of staff as some functions and gatherings may be reserved for full-time staff,” notes Wind.

Yet most locum psychiatrists are warmly welcomed because their help is so needed.

In fact, there are several upsides to the locum lifestyle. “Locum tenens positions offer a lot of flexibility, and you get more control over your benefits, time and avoid office politics,” says Wind.

As you consider your options, consider the context, setting and duration of the assignments where locum psychiatrist jobs are available. Do you relish the chance to build relationships with your patients? A longer-term position in an outpatient setting may appeal to you. If you’re looking for something shorter-term, an inpatient opportunity might be just the ticket.

STAFF CARE has locum opportunities for psychiatrists and other medical practitioners across the U.S.


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