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Understanding Traveling Healthcare; Four Questions on the Topic of Locum Tenens



With annual revenue of nearly $1.7 trillion dollars and some 800,000 healthcare companies active in the United States, the healthcare industry in America is one of the largest sources of revenue to date.  Adding to the list of jobs within the medical field is the traveling healthcare professional.  Often times people associate nursing or radiology with this sector to the industry, but over the past decade, a new area has been gaining increased attention.

Accepting an assignment as a traveling physician or doctor (the medical jargon for the word is locum tenens) can be an exciting experience and a great way to see and experience parts of the United States and even some parts of the world that might have otherwise not been possible.  If this sounds appealing then below are four questions and answers that can help give you a better understanding of the world of the locum tenens.

 Why Should I take a Locum Tenens Assignment over a Permanent Position?

First and foremost, is this top question that often comes up for potential locum tenens is, “why should I even do this in the first place?”  In reality, the answer really lies in your desires, personality traits, and a passion for travel.  In statistics released last for last year, some locum tenens reported taking in a higher salary from a traveling assignment than they would have made if they would have been employed by more traditional means.  The pay ultimately comes down to your training but you can compare rough estimates on expected earnings alongside the necessary requirements.

Specialization                                                  Pay Rate (per work day)

Pediatrics                                                          $500 – $630

                                    OB/GYN                                                           $600 – $800

                                    Radiologist                                                        $1,200 – $1,500

                                    Surgeon                                                            $600 – $750

Aside from the pay rates, a locum tenens assignment can be a great way to expand upon your resume, experience a new demographic or geographic location, and even expose yourself to different healthcare styles.

Fresh physicians just out of medical school can have the opportunity to get a better feel for what is out there in terms of practice pedagogies and care styles.  Taking a locum tenens assignment or two can give the individual a better sense of what will and will not work for them

For the more seasoned physician who is looking to cut down on hours worked but not ready for retirement just yet, a locum tenens contract can offer the flexibility as well as the travel experiences they are looking for.

Why are locum tenens used?

The need for a locum tenens can arise from several situations and circumstances.  While each situation is generally unique, the following are some of the more popular choices of the bunch.

  • To compensate for a leave of absence
  • To fill in for a maternity leave
  • To staff a new clinic or facility while a full-time employee is looked for
  • To supplement patient care during peak or busy seasons

What locations can you expect to work in?

Locum tenens assignments exist in all demographic and geographical locations in the United States.  This means assignments in the snowy mountain towns of Montana all the way to psychiatric locum tenens on the island of Hawaii.  Depending on which staffing agency you go through, the option to take an assignment overseas may even be on the table.

How does licensing work?

A major facet to any health care job is the licensing requirements needed in order to practice in a particular region or a state.  Having a license in one state and taking an assignment in another should not be a deterrent from taking a locum tenens job.

All agencies will work with you one on one to make sure all the necessary paperwork and information is in order for you to practice in your intended state upon securing a contract.

On a related note, malpractice insurance is also generally covered by the staffing agency.  Check around and inquire about the policies associated with your staffing agency of choice.  Will it be general insurance?  Who will take care of the claim and will there be the option for tail coverage?  All questions that should be asked before deciding on one staffing agency over another.