Locum tenens, a term used to describe physicians who work temporary assignments, has become an increasingly attractive option for US physicians. In 2002, there were approximately 25,000 physicians working locums. Today, the number is approximately 50,000. Opportunities for locum tenens employment exist for all specialties. Psychiatry, in particular, is in great demand. For example, one staffing agency lists more than 40 current opportunities for locum tenens psychiatrists.
Choosing to practice locum tenens offers advantages for physicians at every career stage. For example, newly graduated residents may profit from the opportunity to travel and experiment with different practice styles. Mid-career physicians may take locum tenens assignments to supplement salaries from their full-time jobs or as a bridge to a new career. Pre-retirement physicians tired of long hours and relentless call schedules can work part-time locums and continue to practice medicine on their terms. Physicians of all specialties have also discovered that the flexibility of locums offers an alternative to physician burnout.
While locum tenens assignments offer a diversity of professional experiences and the potential for superior compensation, the work is not without challenges. In this 4-minute video, “Strategies for Success,” I describe the advantages of harnessing the 3 As—Availability, Affability, Ability—and adopting a flexible attitude. More detailed information on locums is available in my new book, "The Locum Life: A Physician’s Guide to Locum Tenens.” The website also links to Youtube videos for each book chapter.
Dr Wilner worked his first locum tenens assignment in 1982. He is Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tennessee. Dr Wilner blogs at his website www.andrewwilner.com/blog.