Understanding Locum Tenens: What You Need to Know

Understanding Locum Tenens: What You Need to Know

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Locum tenens, which translates to “placeholder” in Latin, refers to a physician or healthcare provider who temporarily fills in for another physician or healthcare provider. This practice has been around for decades, but it has gained more momentum recently due to the growing demand for healthcare services and the shortage of qualified physicians. This blog post will delve into how it works, its benefits, and challenges and address frequently asked questions about this unique form of medical practice.

The Basics of Locum Tenens

As mentioned earlier, it is a practice where a healthcare provider temporarily takes over the duties and responsibilities of another provider. This can include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other healthcare professionals. It can work in various settings, such as hospitals, urgent care centres, clinics, private practices, and other healthcare facilities.

The temporary nature of the locum can range from a few days to several months, depending on the specific needs of the healthcare facility and the availability of the locum. The compensation for locum can also vary, but it typically includes a daily rate, travel expenses, housing, and malpractice insurance coverage.

The Process of Locum Tenens

The process can vary depending on the healthcare facility and the locum agency involved. However, the general steps involved in this practice include:

Step 1: The Facilities Identify the Need for Locum Tenens

The first step is when a healthcare facility identifies a need for a temporary healthcare provider. This can be due to various reasons, such as a physician taking a leave of absence, a provider leaving for a new job, or an unexpected increase in patient volume. Once identified, the facility can contact a locum tenens agency or an individual tenens provider.

Step 2: The Matching Process

Once a healthcare facility contacts a locum tenens agency or a provider, they will be matched with a locum that meets their specific requirements. These requirements can include the speciality, experience level, location, and time frame needed. The healthcare facility and the locum tenens agency or provider will work together to ensure a good match.

Step 3: Credentialing and Licensing

Before practising, they must undergo a credentialing and licensing process. This ensures they are qualified and meet all the requirements to practice in the specific facility and state. The tenens agency or provider will assist with this process, which can take weeks to months.

Step 4: Assignment and Onboarding

Once the locum tenens are approved and credentialed, they will be assigned to the specific facility where they will work temporarily. The locum tenens will undergo an onboarding process, including orientation, training, and familiarization with the facility and its processes. This ensures that they can smoothly transition into their temporary role.

Step 5: Contracting and Compensation

The final step is signing a contract between the healthcare facility and the locum tenens agency or provider. This contract will outline the terms and conditions of the assignment, including the compensation, duration, and responsibilities. They will start working and continue until the contract ends.

The Benefits of Locum Tenens

There are several benefits to healthcare facilities and tenens providers regarding this practice. Some of these benefits include:

Addressing Staffing Shortages

One of its main benefits is addressing staffing shortages in healthcare facilities. With the growing demand for healthcare services, many facilities struggle to find qualified providers to fill their staffing needs. Locum tenens can help bridge this gap, providing temporary solutions until a permanent provider is found.

Coverage for Leaves of Absence

When a physician or healthcare provider needs to take a leave of absence due to personal reasons, maternity leave, or illness, it can provide coverage during their absence. This ensures that patient care is not compromised and the workload is not overwhelming for the remaining staff.

Flexibility and Variety for Providers

It provides flexibility and variety for healthcare providers. They can choose when and where to work, improving their work-life balance. They also experience different healthcare settings and cultures, which can be enriching and fulfilling for their careers.

Higher Income Potential

The providers can earn a higher income compared to their permanent counterparts. Due to the temporary nature of their work, teens often receive a daily rate, which can be more lucrative than a fixed salary.

The Challenges of Locum Tenens

Along with its benefits, here are the following challenges:

Inconsistent Workload

The providers may experience varying workloads depending on the demand for their services. This can result in a fluctuating income and may not be suitable for those who require a stable work schedule.

Lack of Benefits

As its providers are not permanent employees, they do not receive employee benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. This means they must cover these expenses independently, which can be costly.

Adjustment to New Environments

As its providers constantly move to different facilities, they must quickly adapt to new environments, staff, and processes. This can be challenging for some providers who prefer a more stable work environment.


In conclusion, it is a unique practice that provides a temporary solution for healthcare facilities to address staffing shortages and unforeseen absences. This practice offers several benefits for healthcare facilities and providers but also comes with challenges. As the demand for healthcare services grows, it will play a crucial role in providing much-needed coverage and support to healthcare facilities and their patients.


1) What specialities can work as locum tenens?

The providers come from various specialities, including family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, psychiatry, and surgery. However, the demand for certain specialities may be higher than others, depending on the specific needs of healthcare facilities.

2) Is there a difference between locum tenens and locum physician?

Both terms refer to the same practice where a healthcare provider temporarily fills in for another provider.

3) Can international medical graduates work as locum tenens?

Yes, locum tenens providers, including international medical graduates, can come from different backgrounds. However, they must meet the necessary credentialing and licensing requirements in the state they will practice.

4) How is the compensation for locum tenens determined?

The compensation for locum tenens typically includes a daily rate, which can vary depending on the speciality, experience level, and location. The locum tenens agency or provider will negotiate the compensation with the healthcare facility.

5) Are there any downsides for healthcare facilities in using locum tenens?

Some downsides for healthcare facilities in using locum tenens include the cost of utilizing temporary providers, the potential disruption to staff workflow, and the need for training and onboarding each new locum tenens. However, these challenges can be mitigated with proper planning and communication between the facility and the locum tenens agency or provider.

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