The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that we will face a shortage of up to 150,000 doctors in the United States about 15 years from now. Who will fill these positions down the road? More importantly—as the shortage is currently straining the healthcare delivery system—who will fill them now, while we search for long-term solutions? The U.S. healthcare system will seemingly never operate effectively without filling these positions. Plus, industry insiders all have very different ideas about how to fix it.

Take Advantage of Locum Tenens

One clear option to overcome the physician shortage is to take advantage of locum tenens, physicians who take assignments of varying lengths in hospitals and private practices to alleviate staff vacancies. These traveling physicians will play an increasingly important role in the healthcare delivery system, as will the strategic use of flexible staffing. Over the years, locum tenens has become essential in keeping the healthcare system up and running. More than 20,000 locum tenens fill vacant positions throughout the U.S. at any given time, and it’s likely this figure will grow, thanks to healthcare reform and the continual shortage of medical training programs.

“Over the years, locum tenens has become essential in keeping the healthcare system up and running.”

Physicians of all levels should consider locum tenens as a career option because it offers benefits that a permanent placement position cannot provide, including flexible schedules and educational value through diverse experience. Flexible schedules are important for many physicians in order to save money to fund other passions or in order to afford them the opportunity to live and work in their hometown, perhaps to care for aging parents or loved ones during certain times of the year or to pursue other interests. With regards to diverse educational values, working as a locum tenens enables physicians to experience various practice models, including single-specialty groups, HMOs, or PHOs. Rather than settling into one spot immediately, locum tenens offers the capability to explore opportunities to work in urban, suburban, and rural settings, as well as see the various nuances in each of those settings.

Exploring Locum Tenens Opportunities

Exploring the option to practice locum tenens is something soon-to-be retired physicians should also seriously consider. It is more important now than ever that as many skilled physicians are retained as possible. It’s paramount that they continue to see patients. Locum tenens is a great option for these doctors to enjoy flexible, customized schedules, while continuing to provide much-needed care. Locum tenens should also be considered by employers across the U.S. Many facilities are using locums as a reactive response to an immediate need or shortage. Instead, they can and should be considered a proactive solution for inadequate staffing.

In almost any medical facility—from academic institution to private practice—there is an appropriate place for locum tenens. Locum tenens is a feasible option to consider when looking to offer new services, recruit partners, or retain programs. Smart medical groups and facilities are starting to budget and plan for this flexible staffing solution, realizing that it’s a cost effective tool to augment and assist their recruitment and retention plans. In terms of revenue, locum tenens physicians typically generate cash in excess of their cost. When considering locum tenens as a staffing solution, working with a larger agency can offer additional resources and support to help accomplish revenue goals.

 

 


References

CHG Healthcare Services provides healthcare staffing and comprehensive services, including both temporary and permanent placement of physicians, allied health professionals, and nurses to hospitals and healthcare organizations in all 50 states. For more information, go to www.chghealthcare.com.

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MacDowell M, Glasser M, Fitts M, Nielsen K, Hunsaker M. A national view of rural health workforce issues in the USA. Rural Remote Health. 2010;10:1531.

Schneider SM, Gardner AF, Weiss LD, et al; Future of Emergency Medicine Summit. The future of emergency medicine. J Emerg Nurs. 2010;36:330-335.