Proactive Licensing as a Locum Tenens Provider

Thinking about taking a locum tenens job sometime in the near future? 

If so, it’s a good idea to take stock of your medical license situation, whether you are a physician or advanced practice provider. Depending on where you want to work, you may have to apply for an additional state medical license in order to practice there. 

Here’s another challenge: the application process is more complex in some states than in others, and the time it takes to receive a license varies, too. 

“Since the licensure process differs from state to state in non-pandemic time, it’s definitely a good idea to get started on the process very early on and be aware of the average length of time it takes to get a license specific to each state,” says Sheneen Lalani, DO, an internal medicine hospitalist and palliative care/hospital physician who has worked in several states as a locum tenens physician.

The bottom line: be proactive and start early. When it comes to licensing as a locum tenens provider, you can’t wait until you have a job offer in hand to start thinking about the process.  In fact, it is best to contact a locum tenens recruiter to get guidance on how to go about your next steps. A locum tenens company can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, and may even cover some fees. 

Staff Care, for instance, provides proactive licensing assistance. That means that if you want to work in a state where you do not yet have a state license, the team will work with the licensing board to help you through the process. And if you take a position with them, they will cover the cost of the license. 

Get organized so you’re ready

Physicians who apply for a new medical license will have to supply the documentation and information required by that state’s medical board. The same general process is required of nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other providers who must go through the state licensing board for their profession. 

In the case of physicians, they must typically provide proof that they’ve passed either the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States (COMLEX-USA), as well as documentation from their medical school and graduate training. Some states will also require other components as part of the application, such as exam scores, references and information about past licensure.

When was the last time you pulled together all of that information? If you don’t have it close at hand, take the time now to assemble your documentation and keep it easily accessible, so you don’t have to search for it when applying. 

“All my information I keep on my laptop, which is my primary computer,” says Alvin Murn, MD, an emergency medicine physician who lives in North Carolina and works locum tenens assignments in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

The American Medical Association also suggests asking state medical boards about their average processing time.  That way, you can work ahead and incorporate that timeframe into your plans. On average, you should plan for about 60 days, according to the AMA. 

Again, if you work with a locum tenens company like Staff Care, your recruiter will assist you through the licensure process for your state of choice. You have to supply the necessary information, but they can help you with the application and may cover some of your fees.

Never been licensed? New physicians can look up the requirements for initial medical licensure by state on the Federation of State Medical Boards’ list. 

How the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact may help you

Looking for other ways to simplify the process of getting a medical license in another state? If you live in a state that participates in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC), you’re in luck. This agreement is designed to make it easier for you to apply for (and receive) licenses in certain states. As of the end of October 2020, there were 32 states participating in the compact, with Louisiana being the latest to join.  

The compact essentially streamlines the licensure process for physicians who live in a participating state and want to practice medicine in other compact states. You must meet the compact’s eligibility requirements, and the IMLC Commission must successfully verify your qualifications. Then you can complete one application and choose the states for which you wish to receive a license. 

This expedites the process of getting licenses that will allow you to practice medicine in other states for locum tenens jobs.   

When deciding on which states to select, it’s worth considering your future plans. For example, have you been thinking about one day pursuing a locum tenens opportunity in Arizona or Illinois? If you can swing the costs associated with those additional licenses, it might be worth going ahead and including them on your application. 

“It allows physicians to have a little more flexibility or ability to respond to opportunities that they didn’t see would be there,” says Marschall Smith, executive director of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission. 

A growing number of physicians are already getting multiple state medical licenses in order to facilitate locum tenens work, telemedicine opportunities and more. According to the IMLC Commission, 20 percent of physician applicants obtain three or more licenses when they apply, and 6 percent obtain seven or more at one time. 

This type of proactive licensing can give you a definite advantage for certain jobs. The IMLC helps speed up the licensure process in compact states, but when quick-fill positions open up, having a license already in hand puts you in prime position to say "yes." 

State-by-State Medical Licenses and Renewals 
The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact 
Have an IMLC License? Start Working Faster 

STAFF CARE has locum tenens opportunities for physicians and advanced practitioners across the U.S., and our team can help get you on your way. 

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