Debunking the Most Common Locum Tenens Myths

By: curativetalent

Locum tenens physicians have been an integral part of the healthcare system for decades, filling in gaps and providing critical support during times of need. According to Staffing Industry Analysts, the demand for locum tenens physicians has been steadily increasing in the United States, with an estimated growth of 10% in 2023 and continued growth in 2024. Despite this growing trend, several misconceptions about locum tenens professionals continue to circulate in the industry, which can hinder healthcare organizations from fully utilizing this valuable resource. Follow along as we confront and debunk the five most common myths surrounding locum tenens physicians.

Myth #1: Locum Tenens Physicians Are Underqualified

One of the most prevalent myths about locum tenens physicians is that they are underqualified or less skilled than their permanent counterparts. However, locum tenens professionals must undergo a rigorous credentialing process, including background checks, verification of medical licenses, and confirmation of board certifications, before being considered for placements.

Many locum tenens physicians have years of experience working in various healthcare settings, giving them a diverse skill set and adaptability that can be a valuable asset to hospitals and clinics. Moreover, these professionals often have the same level of expertise and quality of care as permanent staff members, with some even having subspecialty certifications or additional fellowship training in their field.

Understanding the cost-benefit analysis associated with locum tenens professionals can help healthcare facilities effectively manage budgets while maintaining the necessary staffing levels for high-quality patient care.

Myth #2: Locum Tenens Physicians Are Expensive

Another common myth is that locum tenens physicians are expensive compared to their full-time counterparts. While it is true that locum tenens professionals can command higher hourly rates, there are several factors to consider that can make them a cost-effective solution for healthcare facilities.

First and foremost, locum tenens physicians are not eligible for benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, or paid time off, which can significantly reduce the overall cost of employing them. Additionally, hospitals and clinics do not need to invest in long-term contracts or training for these temporary professionals, saving valuable time and resources.

Most importantly, the cost of leaving a practice with locums tenens coverage was almost invariably less than the cost of maintaining without coverage. Locum tenens physicians can help prevent staff burnout and maintain patient care standards during peak demand or staff shortages, reducing the potential for costly errors or negative patient outcomes.

Recognizing the expertise and qualifications of locum tenens physicians enables healthcare organizations to confidently utilize these skilled professionals as a solution to solve staffing challenges and provide optimal patient care.

Myth #3: Locum Tenens Physicians Are Less Motivated

A third myth is that locum tenens physicians are less motivated or invested in patient care because they are not permanent staff members. This is a false assumption. Locum tenens professionals are dedicated to providing high-quality care to their patients and take pride in the fact that they can make a difference in communities across the country.

In fact, locum tenens physicians often bring fresh perspectives and renewed energy to their temporary assignments, positively impacting patient care and team morale. They are motivated by the opportunity to work with diverse patient populations, develop new skills, and experience different practice settings.

Acknowledging the motivation and dedication of locum tenens physicians can foster an environment of collaboration and trust between temporary and permanent staff members.

Myth #4: Locum Tenens Practice is Geared Toward Semi-Retired Practitioners

While it is true that some semi-retired physicians choose locum tenens practice to maintain a flexible schedule and continue practicing medicine, not all locum tenens professionals fall into this category. Locum tenens practice appeals to a wide range of physicians, from those just starting their careers to those with decades of experience under their belts.

Among young physicians, there is increased interest in locum tenens—physicians ages 45 and younger, 12.8% said they planned to work as a locum tenens in the next one to three years compared to 10.8% of physicians 46 and older. Younger physicians are increasingly leaning into the benefits locum tenens work provides for more flexibility, exploration of practice (location, business aspects, networking), and the clinical experience it provides.

The wide-ranging age and varied expertise of locum tenens physicians contribute to their value as a flexible and adaptable staffing solution for healthcare organizations.

Myth #5: Locum Tenens Practitioners Have No Permanent Potential

The final myth we will address is the notion that locum tenens practitioners have no permanent potential. Many believe that since locum tenens physicians work temporary assignments, they are not interested in or suitable for permanent positions. Fortunately, this assumption is far from accurate, as locum tenens professionals possess great potential for permanent roles.

In many cases, a locum tenens assignment leads to a permanent position. In fact, one-third of temp employees were offered permanent positions after their assignment was complete. Locum tenens assignments oftentimes serve as extended interviews, providing both the physician and the healthcare facility the opportunity to assess fit before committing to a permanent relationship. It allows the physician to understand the culture, workflow, and expectations of the organization, and it provides the healthcare facility a chance to see the physician's skills, adaptability, and interaction with the existing staff and patients.

Additionally, the flexibility of locum tenens work allows physicians to explore various healthcare settings and geographic locations, which can ultimately help them find the perfect permanent position that aligns with their career goals and lifestyle preferences. Leveraging the flexibility of locum tenens practice can help healthcare facilities attract and retain highly skilled and adaptable professionals that contribute positively to their teams and the patients they serve.

The potential for locum tenens professionals to transition into permanent roles can help healthcare organizations build strong and stable teams, ensuring the continuity of high-quality patient care.

Utilizing Locums Tenens to Address Staffing Challenges

To fully harness the advantages offered by locum tenens staffing, it's crucial for healthcare organizations to change their perceptions and dispel the most common myths associated with locum tenens professionals. Embracing locum tenens professionals as a viable and valuable staffing solution can help healthcare facilities remain agile and maintain a high standard of care for their patients. By debunking these common myths, we hope to encourage a more accurate understanding of locum tenens physicians and their vital role in the healthcare system, ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes and overall healthcare facility performance.

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