With the U.S. facing a shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2025, temporary physician staffing -- or "locum tenens" -- has never been more important. Since 1979, the locum tenens industry has helped fill the staffing gap by sending physicians to the hospitals and facilities that need them most.
Today, locumstory.com launched as a resource to raise awareness of the industry and its importance. The story is told by the physicians who work these temporary assignments and the healthcare organizations that use them.
In the United States, the idea of locum tenens dates back to 1970 when two physicians from the University of Utah received funding for a project aimed at providing care to rural areas of the country. The first locum tenens staffing company was formed in 1979.
Since that time, locum tenens staffing has become a $2.4 billion industry. An estimated 40,000 physicians now work locum tenens assignments each year, and more than 90 percent of hospitals and other facilities use locum tenens physicians to fill positions.
Why hospitals hire locum tenens physicians
Though locum tenens physicians work in all types of settings, there is a pressing need in rural locations and underserved urban areas. Facilities often use locum tenens to cover a permanent physician's leave, to deal with increased patient load, or to fill the gap while hiring a new doctor.
The need for locum tenens physicians will continue to increase due to a growing physician shortage, combined with more Americans gaining access to care under the Affordable Care Act. Fortunately, 68 percent of physicians ages 50 and older plan to work locum tenens after retirement.
"We use locum tenens for several reasons," said Tim Speece of Clinica Sierra Vista in California. "The simplest are just vacation, pregnancy leave, or surgery. But what we're facing more and more is a physician shortage. For every family practice resident coming out of school last summer, there were at least 56 job openings. Primary care is becoming an incredible supply and demand problem."
Why doctors work locum tenens assignments
Though some doctors work locum tenens in place of a full-time position, the majority work locum tenens in addition to a full-time job, as a stopgap between permanent jobs, or as a way to transition from full-time practice into retirement.
Here are just a few of the many reasons why doctors choose to work locum tenens:
The chance to test-drive a job before signing a long-term contract
- The opportunity to give back by serving in rural or underserved areas
- Scheduling flexibility and better work/life balance
- Less time spent on administrative work and more time with patients
- Earning a competitive salary without overhead costs
Quick facts about locum tenens:
- Locum tenens physicians work in all 50 states
- The Veterans Administration places locum tenens physicians in 1,400 medical facilities, serving 25 million veterans
- Locum tenens physicians play an integral role in the care given to 2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives
- The average length of a locum tenens assignment is 16 days
20 percent of residents work locum tenens right out of training
- 80 percent of locum tenens find their assignments through a locum tenens staffing agency
Locumstory.com explains why locum tenens is an integral and growing part of the healthcare industry. The site also offers a way for physicians and healthcare facilities to share their locum tenens stories. The site is sponsored by CompHealth, the largest locum tenens staffing company in the United States. CompHealth is part of the CHG Healthcare Services family of companies. CHG is ranked No. 16 on Fortune magazine's list of "100 Best Companies to Work For."