Locum tenens: A growing option with good pay

More doctors are working locum tenens, taking a temporary job in hospitals, group practices and clinics.

They choose locum tenens work for a variety of reasons: good pay, the freedom to live in a new place or the chance to have a more defined work schedule, according to Medscape.

A growing number of healthcare organizations are looking to locum tenens to fill gaps on their staff and more doctors are opting in. One locum placement firm, Staff Care, reported that more doctors than ever—about 48,000—were working locum tenens in 2016.

Impending physician shortages and other changes in the healthcare landscape are driving increased use of locum tenens physicians. Many physicians who are coming to the end of the end of their careers are keeping their hand in medicine by doing locum tenens work.

The assignments pay well and that’s a big draw. Locum doctors can earn almost as much doing the same work or less as they would in a full-time position.

For instance, one full-time obstetrician-gynecologist left a Vermont hospital system to work locum tenens. "He decided, with all of the increasing expectations by way of productivity, that he could be a locum hospitalist every other week, working 26 weeks a year, and make the same if not more money as he did as a full-time ob/gyn, without being pressured about what his relative value unit production was last month," Thomas Crawford, Ph.D., clinical instructor and administrator at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston who was CEO of a rural health system in Vermont, told the publication.

Locum tenens is not for everyone, however, and doctors are advised to do due diligence before accepting an assignment. For example, doctors will likely deal with a locum tenens firm that places physicians and will have to negotiate a contract. And the work also has a drawback: Full-time employers may be reluctant to hire you down the road if they see locum tenens jobs on your resume and question your work ethic.