Surveys Show Number of Locum Tenens Physicians Set to Rise

Surveys Show Number of Locum Tenens Physicians Set to Rise

How many physicians in the U.S. work as locum tenens, and are their numbers set to grow?

There is no definitive answer to these questions, but two recent surveys offer some compelling clues.

The first is the annual Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends Staff Care conducts to gauge locum tenens staffing activity among hospitals, medical groups and other facilities.

In the 2014 edition of this survey, we estimated the number of physicians who worked as locum tenens during the previous 12 months, whether just for a weekend or two or on a full-time basis.

This estimate is based on the number of physicians staff care places on locum tenens assignments each year and on a projection of the number of physicians working as locum tenens through other staffing companies or on their own.

The chart below compares Staff Care’s 2013 estimate to the estimate we made in 2002.

Number of Physicians Working Locum Tenens in the US

The approximately 40,000 physicians who now work as locum tenens represent over five percent of the total physician workforce in active patient care, which currently stands at about 740,000.

Based on the findings of a survey conducted by The Physicians Foundation, this number is likely to grow. The Physicians Foundation’s 2014 Survey of America’s Physicians includes responses from over 20,000 doctors nationwide. When asked what they plan to do in the next one to three years, 9.1 percent of physicians said they plan to work as locum tenens, compared to 6.4 percent in 2012.

The chart below shows the five states with the highest number of physicians planning to work as locum tenens.

Physicians Planning Locum Tenens Work in Next 3 Years, By State

These are startling figures and indicate that a growing number of doctors are embracing locum tenens as an alternative to traditional office or hospital based practice. If only half the number of doctors who said they are going to work as locum tenens in The Physicians Foundation survey actually do so, the ranks of locum tenens physicians would almost double to close to 80,000, and locum tenens doctors would comprise about 10 percent of the total physician workforce.

Why more physicians are choosing to practice as locum tenens is a separate issue which I look forward to addressing in another blog post. In the meantime, those who would like a copy of the two surveys referenced above are welcome to email me at

Sean Ebner is President of Staff Care, the nation’s leading locum tenens staffing firm and a company of AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AHS).

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