Locum Tenens


Locum Tenens Provider-Ship: An Increasingly Popular Full-Time Career Option

The word 'locum' is a French word derived from the Latin phrase 'locum tenens', which means “place holder.” We traditionally view the locum tenens physician or provider as a medical practitioner filling a temporary coverage gap for another provider or physician who is on vacation, sabbatical, family leave or other extended absence. Yet for a rising number of locum tenens physicians and providers, the work is not temporary at all: It is becoming an increasingly popular full-time career opportunity.

A recent 2015 survey shows that between 6 and 7 percent of America's physicians consider locum tenens work their full-time career. This survey also speculates that the aforementioned number could spike as high as 11 percent before the end of 2017.

A Natural Result

Many in the healthcare industry have a warranted tendency to look at trends as mere fluctuations, an understandable footing given the many recent changes in medicine. However, in regards to the increasing popularity of locum tenens work, this viewpoint is myopic: Not only do providers enjoy locum tenens work and the flexibility it offers, healthcare facilities, practices and governing bodies are acknowledging the need for locum tenens provider-ship. In other words, there’s a demand for locum tenens provider-ship across the board.

American healthcare policy and resource allocation serve as impetus for the increasing popularity of locum tenens work—work characterizing changes in the practice of medicine unlike any we’ve seen in the past century. Rising healthcare costs and several government regulations understandably ask that facilities, practices and providers do more with less. Locum tenens work may be a natural result of this phenomenon. Nobody is reprehensible for this, but not everyone can agree on what direction healthcare should follow, especially given the field’s vast array of changes.

The typical locum tenens provider wants the opportunity to practice medicine as his or her own boss, and this may also account for the increasing popularity of locum tenens provider-ship. Those who join the locum tenens bandwagon, therefore, are excited to work as self-employed contractors.

The Self-Employed Contractor

Locum tenens work is an increasingly popular full-time occupation because it enables providers to work as self-employed contractors, meaning they can accept or decline assignments as they see fit, allowing them control over where and when they work. And even though they are obligated to fulfill the responsibilities of an employee with every assignment, they can reject assignments that are not to their liking. Working as a locum tenens provider is right up there with having one's own private practice, especially for providers who love to travel and wish to practice medicine without tending to the business side of the industry.

Although locum tenens providers do not make up the majority of medical practitioners, their increasing popularity is warranted and helps members of the medical field adapt to the ever-changing contours of the industry. Given the expansion of locum tenens work and global demand for it, we can expect to see locum tenens accepted as a full-time career option by more providers, analysts and forecasters alike.


  1. Health Leaders Mediahttp://www.healthleadersmedia.com/content/PHY-313808/Physician-Locum-Ten...
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FSMB Legislature Accommodates Demand for Locum Tenens Providers

Although demand for locum tenens providers has been on the rise for decades, it wasn’t until Jan. 2015 that legislature started to seriously accommodate this demand—a demand that the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact stands to mitigate. LocumTenensDaily.com reports that 10 states have introduced the legislation to expedite the locum licensing process: Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Vermont and Wyoming are the US’s first states to utilize this bill.

A bill created by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), this piece of legislature simplifies and expedites what was once a lengthy licensing process for nearly all facilities and locum tenens providers. Given that so many gaps in coverage arise unexpectedly, it is crucial that locum tenens providers and facilities alike have streamlined, quick and efficient licensing process; this legislation provides just that. LocumTenensDaily.com reports that this new law gives providers the freedom to work in multiple states without enduring the wait to obtain state-specific licenses.

In turn, healthcare facilities can trust that the gaps in their facilities’ coverage can be filled at faster rates. The FSMB legislation may spurn more facilities to rightfully entrust their reputation to the quality of care that locum tenens providers are capable of upholding. This not only deepens the breadth of talent in the locum tenens provider pool, it creates better access to rarer medical sub-specialties and means more patients will receive the healthcare they need in a timelier manner.

As is always the case in healthcare, especially as it pertains to the provider shortage, waiting is not an option. Streamlined and efficient processes on the legislative side of the fence suggest that government is now willing to equal the healthcare industry’s pace in resolving the provider shortage issue, giving locum tenens companies and highly qualified providers who still struggle to find employment the resources necessary to resuscitate the lackluster provider pool. When it comes to healthcare, time is of the essence and everything is urgent. Licensing is no different.

But this new legislature does not suggest that practicing standards have slackened or that there will be a greater number of providers with fewer skills—it merely means that more states are willing to accept other states’ credentials, respecting the standards for healthcare on a greater geographic scale. This new FSMB legislation neither permits nor condones practicing without a license proving a providers’ worth: it merely gives more credit to the differences of various geographic locales and how each of these locales decides to train its providers. One thing is certain: the emergence of this legislation is positive, for it will give locum tenens companies and providers alike greater leverage in winning the fight against the national provider shortage.   


  1. Locum Tenens Daily - http://www.locumtenensdaily.com/dissolving-lines-interstate-medical-licensure-compact/
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How to Bill for Locum Tenens Physician Services

There are two ways to bill Medicare when using a locum tenens provider, depending on the situation.

One is to set up the locum tenens physician with their own NPI and the other is to use the NPI of the physician they are replacing, plus the Q6 modifier code.

This Q6 code is only allowed to be used for a 60-day period, at which time either the replaced physician or another locum tenens physician needs to come in to work for at least a day before the original locum tenens physician can come back and again be billed under Q6 – this resets the 60-day limit.

What do you do if a reset isn’t possible, and you want to keep using the same locum tenens provider as a replacement beyond 60 days?

Unless the physician being replaced is on active military duty (which waives the 60-day limit), you will need to bill Medicare using the locum tenens physician’s NPI.

In addition, any time a locum tenens provider is working in the place of another physician for longer than 60 days, you need to have a contract that includes joint and several liability and ensures access to claims submitted by the entity for the services provided by the locum tenens physician.

Here is a sample of the clause needed:

Physician and Client will have joint and several liability for any Medicare overpayment relating to claims made for Physician’s services, but Client will hold Physician harmless for any such liability.

Physician shall have unrestricted access to claims submitted by client for services provided by Physician.

Knowing which billing method to use when can be tricky, so we’ve mapped it out for you below.

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Why La Vida Locum Is La Vida Lucrative

The tale of the medical provider enthralled by wanderlust, who takes an adventure to a foreign area in pursuit of work in a locum tenens role, is no longer a tale of risk so much as it is one of positive results.


Because there are too many boons to working locum tenens to claim otherwise and nobody has incentive to keep that a secret. This doesn’t mean that providers no longer venture into locum tenens roles for altruistic reasons; it simply means that reasons for entering these roles are easier to find than ever.

A growing number of physicians and other medical providers are not only enjoying locum tenens positions—they are also finding that mastery of the locum tenens process affords far more income, flexibility and satisfaction than they may have anticipated.    

Although many have unique reasons for pursuing the medical field, whether for personal beliefs or top-rate compensation, the earnings of locum tenens providers, on average, exceed those of permanent provider jobs. In fact, MD Kevin Pho reported on Medpagetoday.com that locum tenens physicians earn approximately 33-50 percent more than permanently placed providers so long as they can maintain continual employment within these roles. [1]

However, those considering locum tenens roles for reasons unrelated to income are in luck.  Flexible and fewer hours are significant incentives to those seeking locum tenens work, giving providers more time to enjoy their personal lives. Although locum tenens work may require relocation, the best staffing agencies cover costs for expenses associated with travel.

Furthermore, although it can be difficult to leave family and friends behind, distance no longer imposes as many problems to relationships as it did prior to social media and other communication technologies. Therefore, the more pressing issue separating many providers from their families is not proximity but rather, time; something that some facilities do not sufficiently provide to their physicians in permanent roles.

On an even brighter note for the locum tenens physician jobs future, certain areas may not even require a provider to uproot his or her life and move away from family.

It’s for these reasons that Morgan Lewis Jr. reported on Medscape.com that many locum tenens providers are enjoying their work more than they did previous positions. [2] Although permanent positions offer several uncompromising benefits to some providers, flexibility and work-life balance are making locum tenens physician and medical provider jobs more appealing than ever, revolutionizing the functionality of modern medicine and ameliorating the provider shortage—phenomenon likely to result in global health benefits in the near future.


  1. http://www.medpagetoday.com/KevinMD/41085
  2. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/769728
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Social Media and Family Practice: A Newfound Reason to Consider Locum Tenens Work

It’s common for serious, professional types to question the role that social media plays in the world. However, as trivial as one may deem it, social media stands to incentivize family practice physicians to partake in resolving one of the world’s biggest healthcare crises - the physician shortage.

An infographic recently reported on locumtenensdaily.com illustrates how social media use among physicians has continually skyrocketed since 2008, particularly for doctors perusing Twitter and YouTube. Aside from these two channels, roughly 90 percent of the physician population now uses at least one social media platform for either personal or professional use.

To put this figure in perspective, only 65 percent of the remaining adult population uses social media by the aforementioned terms. Uprooting the assumption that physicians are either too busy or too introverted to maintain contact with friends, family and colleagues, these statistical trends shed further light on an opportunity to meet healthcare demands in a line of work burgeoning with as much speed as social media itself—locum tenens physician-ship.  The lesson is clear—those best equipped to provide the world with the healthcare it needs have the digital connections necessary to maintain social life amid traveling conditions.

With an ever-increasing physician shortage, hospitals and family practice physicians alike must respond to this shortage with the flexibility and responsiveness that locum tenens positions give. These opportunities afford adventurous physicians the opportunity to travel and meet healthcare facility needs in government operations and privately-owned enterprises. Social media, a great tool for familial interconnectedness, can help physicians enter locum tenens positions while maintaining contact with family members and friends as they travel.

Although the typical family practice provider may have entered his or her line of work due to a strong bond held with his or her own family and other ties upheld by immediate, proximal contact, the physician shortage presently calls for family providers who are willing to travel for work. Family practice, a medical discipline that focuses on access to care for all, can be improved in the areas that need it most if physicians find ways to mitigate the minor hassles associated with traveling—social media being one of these roundabouts.

Although adequately-staffed facilities may lose a doctor who seeks locum tenens work as a family provider, resources must be reallocated to meet the most pressing needs on a much larger, geographic scale.

The first step has been made: family providers are already immersed in social media, but they must now test that immersion’s ability to uphold relationships amid travel for locum tenens work. Resolving the physician shortage issue depends on it.


  1. Locum Tenens Daily - http://www.locumtenensdaily.com/physicians-the-use-of-social-media-an-infographic/
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Being a Locum Tenens Professional

While many physicians accept full-time jobs at hospitals and other medical facilities, some choose to work in locum tenens positions.  This term translates to “one holding a place,” but many think of a locum tenens job as simply a temporary position, because that’s what it is – these are short-term jobs that professionals take for a number of different reasons.

A locum tenens physician may fill in for another, full-time doctor who has gone on a short-term leave of absence for some reason.  Others temporarily take on vacated positions while the hospital is interviewing candidates for the job.  Other locum tenens professionals accept short-term jobs at clinics that have seen a major increase in new patients or workload.  They provide help until the clinic can create new positions and find permanent workers to fill them.

There are a number of reasons why someone would want to work in one of these temporary positions.  First, they allow for a flexible work schedule.  Locum tenens physicians can take on work when they need it and take a break after the job ends if they want.  They also get to travel since these positions open up all over the country.  Their travel expenses may even be paid as part of the job’s pay.  Some professionals who work full-time might take a local locum tenens job just to make a little bit of extra money.

Taking a locum tenens job is also a great way of learning about a related field and gaining experience in that area.  This can be helpful when looking for a new job or when trying to get a promotion.  It is also a great way for recent graduates to get a taste of different areas and jobs if they are not sure what type of job they want.  Some locum tenens positions may even turn into permanent jobs.

Of course, there are a few downsides, too.  Travel is often required, which can make it hard to maintain a permanent residence or relationships.  There is no guarantee of work, either.  These jobs rarely come with insurance and other benefits and, because Locum Tenens physicians are independent contractors, they have to pay more in social security.

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The 5 Best Physician Jobs for 2015

Planning a career in medicine? We have compiled a list of the top five physician jobs for 2015, based on a number of different criteria, from compensation to workplace stress.

1. Neurosurgeon

Neurosurgeon tops the list for 2015 due to a combination of compensation and work environment. Forbes reports annual compensation of about $591,000. By contrast, the median salary for physicians across all specialties is just $187,200 according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). As for work environment, neurosurgery is such a highly specialized area of medicine that doctors working in this field are generally given a lot of latitude. Most do not complain about workplace stress or pressure anywhere near what is reported by general practice doctors.

2. Cardiologist

This specialty is gaining a bit more popularity thanks to group practices and hospital practices involving cardiologists in the healthcare team model. When a cardiologist works for a group or a hospital, he or she tends to have a more reliable schedule and less responsibility in terms of practice management. The pay doesn't hurt, either. Becker's Hospital Review pegged the salary of the average cardiologist in 2012 at $550,000.

3. Anesthesiologist

According to the BLS, there were more than 30,000 anesthesiologists working in the U.S. as of May 2013. Anesthesiology is among the top-paying careers for doctors, but it is also one that is highly technical and constantly evolving. Most anesthesiologists work at hospitals or private practices.


The OB/GYN position has long been one of the favorites because of the opportunity to be involved with birthing children. However, doctors in this field of medicine deal with a full range of women's health issues, including cervical cancer, breast cancer, and issues relating to fertility and menopause. A growing focus on women's health has led to increased resources being dedicated to this field of medicine.

5. Locum Tenens Physician

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the general practitioner or internist to successfully run a private practice without experiencing high levels of stress. Working in a group or a hospital-owned practice is not that much easier. As a result, more GPs and internists are turning to locum tenens jobs as a way to continue practicing medicine without nearly as much pressure. Locums have the added benefit of being able to earn more, when you factor in travel stipends, free housing, and reduced-cost professional liability insurance along with salary.


  1. Forbeshttp://www.forbes.com/sites/kathryndill/2014/07/25/the-best-paying-jobs-...
  2. Becker's Hospital Reviewhttp://www.beckershospitalreview.com/compensation-issues/25-highest-paid...
  3. BLShttp://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291061.htm
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Financial Advice for the New Locum Tenens Professional

When you’re just getting started as a locum tenens physician, you’ve got a new lifestyle to figure out – and that includes figuring out your finances. As an independent contractor, you have different benefits to take advantage of, as well as different responsibilities from regular permanent employees. Here are a few tips for managing your money as a locums tenens.

Create a budget

When you’re traveling for work, it’s tempting to spend as if you’re on a vacation. That’s not a sustainable year-round lifestyle, though. While you should by all means enjoy the new areas you visit as a locums, consider your long-term financial goals and create a plan for how you want to reach them BEFORE you start spending your hard-earned cash on souvenir snow globes for all your nieces and nephews.

Plan for taxes

Unlike permanent employees, your taxes aren’t withheld from your paychecks. Instead, the IRS expects you to pay your taxes QUARTERLY, in addition to filing an annual return in April. Take time to educate yourself on how much you will be required to pay, and include saving for taxes in your budget. Learn more about taxes for locum tenens here.

Pay down debt

According to Becker's Hospital Review, locum tenens doctors are paid very well. When you combine salary with the cost-of-living benefits provided by staffing agencies, locums can earn considerably more. Take advantage of this added income by paying down your student loans, credit cards and other debts as much as possible. You’ll be glad to be free of that debt later on.

Set up automatic bill pay

If you haven’t done this already, now is the time to set up as many of your bills as possible to be paid automatically, either through a designated bank account or via credit card. It’s also a good idea to get your statements online. When you’re traveling, you don’t want to risk a bill getting lost in the mail or your payment arriving late.

Save for emergencies, vacations and dreams

After you’ve paid your taxes, debts and bills, pay yourself. Create a separate bank account that is set aside to take care of unexpected expenses and to meet your needs during your time off between assignments. You may also want to save for a home or other large purchase – there’s nothing more motivating than working toward a dream!



  1. Beckers Hospital Review – http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-physician-relationships/wh...
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Ten Tips for Locum Tenens Professionals

There are many great perks to being a locum tenens provider, as well as a few additional responsibilities that come with the territory. Your assignments will take you to new, interesting places, where you’ll meet new, interesting people – but this exciting adventure takes you away from your home and quite often living out of a suitcase. . You can enjoy the flexibility of being an independent contractor and having control of your schedule – but this comes with the added responsibility of managing your taxes. How can you manage all of this?

Make the most of being a locum tenens professional by following these ten tips:

  1. Always keep your CV, certificates, and other credentials together and in a place you can find them. It is a good idea to scan documents and keep them in your email or cloud storage. This way, you always have them on hand.
  2. Return phone calls and emails quickly. If you are accessible, you can pick up jobs very quickly.
  3. Be sure to keep very accurate financial records of both income and any expenses related to work. As a locum tenens professional, you are considered self-employed, meaning your taxes will be more complicated than a standard employee. Keeping accurate financial records will come in handy come tax time.
  4. Know when you need to renew licenses and certifications, and know which of these are needed in what states and for what type of jobs. You do not want to pick up a new job just to realize your state license has expired. (VISTA has an expert licensing and credentialing team that can help – we’ll even pay the fees.)
  5. Keep a list of what jobs you have applied for and which recruiters have your CV. It doesn’t look good to have multiple recruiting companies sending your CV in for the same position. You might want to consider working with a single locum tenens company to make sure you don’t end up looking disorganized or desperate.
  6. Sign up for frequent flyer miles, hotel rewards programs, and other loyalty clubs. One of the obvious perks of working locum tenens assignments are the travel rewards. After your assignment is finished, cash in your points for a great vacation!  
  7. Carefully research every recruiting company you sign with. You want to make certain they are actually going to be able to get you jobs in the area you want and that pay optimum wages.
  8. Keep up with technology. Because different hospitals and facilities use different EMR systems, for example, you will need to know how to use them all. The more technology you can say you are familiar with, the better chances you have of being hired for a position.
  9. Know when and where all of your jobs are. This may seem obvious, but you need to be aware of how long you will be in a location and what kind of break you have between your jobs. It is also helpful to keep a work history for your credentials.
  10. Remember to enjoy yourself every now and then. As long as you are traveling to many different places, take the time to do a little sightseeing!
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Helpful Tips for New Locums

Choosing to start or finish your career as a locum is decidedly different from working as a staff physician or owning your own practice. The world of the locum tenens physician is one of constant change, unique challenges, and a plethora of different work environments and personalities.


As a new locum, you will undoubtedly hear lots of advice from seasoned professionals. You might even receive advice from someone who has never worked as a locum before. Your job is to sort out the good from the bad. We would like to offer some advice of our own, so we have put together our list of helpful tips for new locums. We hope you find them useful.

1. Obtain Multiple Licenses

By obtaining and maintaining multiple licenses, you will increase your marketability. Not only that, you will have access to some choice assignments if license issues arise. Maintaining multiple licenses is not hard in principle, but it does require some organizational skills. Some staffing companies, such as VISTA Staffing Solutions, offer license and credentialing services.

2. Hire a CPA

Locums are self-employed contractors who essentially run their own businesses working for medical facilities. Taking just one or two assignments per year might be manageable for accounting purposes; anything more than that can be challenging. Our advice is to hire a CPA to handle your accounting and taxes for you. Otherwise, you will be left to handle all of it yourself – including having to remember to file quarterly estimated taxes with the federal government. One missed payment could cost you more trouble than it's worth.

3. Manage Your Expectations and Find a Good Recruiter

It is important to let recruiters know what your expectations are when you sign on with a staffing company. Be clear and concise as well. As you go from one assignment to the next, be sure to let recruiters know when expectations have been met, when they have not been met, and when they have been exceeded. A regular and open dialogue with your recruiter will lead to an improved relationship over time. Also, every opportunity is different. Some will be undoubtedly better than others, and it is up to you how selective you want, or can, be.

4. Always Be Professional

You will gain a reputation within the industry, for better or worse. Furthermore, you will make your career a lot more enjoyable and productive if you make a point of always being professional in everything you do. Keep in mind that professionalism includes treating your colleagues with respect, following all the rules and policies of the facilities where you work and being cooperative. Maintaining a professional reputation will open doors for the best assignments and make return locum tenens assignments more likely.

5. Embrace the Digital World

If you have not yet embraced the digital world, it is time to do so. With every assignment you accept, there will be additional paperwork that needs to be stored. You will have letters of reference, tax records, professional recommendations, and so on. You will also be updating your CV after every assignment. It's best to store these documents electronically so you can carry them with you wherever you go.

Your time as a locum will be as good as you make it. So learn from these tips as well as information you glean from others. The more you know about being a successful locum, the more enjoyable your career will be. You might even decide you like doing enough to make it a permanent lifestyle. At the very least, make the most of this opportunity to explore new locales and make new friends.

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