What is Locum Tenens hospitalist?

A hospitalist is most commonly a board certified internal medicine physician who has chosen to practice medicine in a hospital due to personal preference. Locum tenens is a Latin phrase that means to hold the place and is used to describe when a physician works temporarily in a hospital or other healthcare facility. A locum tenens hospitalist allows hospitals to cover another physician’s vacation/medical leave, account for increased patient demand, or fill a gap while a new, permanent physician is searched for. In fact, some hospitals choose to staff more locum tenens hospitalists than permanent physicians, given their flexibility and ability to accommodate higher demand. The appropriate number and mix of locum tenens hospital physicians allows healthcare organizations to provide quality healthcare to their patient populations, while offering locum tenens physicians more flexibility, extra income, the ability to travel, and exposure to new and evolving patient care environments.

Benefits Of Locum Tenens Hospitalist Work

Locum tenens is becoming a popular way of life for physicians and hospitalists across the country. Early career locum tenens hospitalists use this time to figure out what they want to do with their careers, while more experienced physicians can use it to finish their careers, focusing solely on the medical care of their patients or working as many or as few hours as they would like. In addition, healthcare facilities may utilize the temporary physicians to save money on health, retirement, career development, and retention benefits. Some of the main are benefits to working as locum tenens hospitalist include:

  • Flexibility
    • While working as a locum tenens hospitalist, you have control over job location, assignment length, and practice settings. You are able to negotiate the shift schedule that fits your lifestyle. Once approved to work at a hospital, hospitalists are able to make themselves available to pick up last minute shifts if they desire. Schedule flexibility is ideal for those who have commitments outside of practicing medicine, such as raising a family, caring for a loved one, or even working another full-time job.
  • Salary
    • Locum tenens hospitalist pay rates are often comparable, if not higher than permanent hospitalist positions due the high demand for covering a vacancy. The pay rates vary widely based on region, immediacy of demand, special skills wanted, board certification requirements, call requirements, and more, but average locum tenens hospitalist rates are usually between $100-200/hour.
  • Professional opportunities
    • There are many career advantages in being a locum tenens hospitalist. You will develop and expand your professional network, enhance your clinical skills, and gain experience in working with diverse patient populations.

If you are a relatively new physician and new to locum tenens, this is the perfect time to gain experience with a variety of medical specialists and gain invaluable experience in a short amount of time. Physicians in their mid to late careers can use locum tenens to work close to home or use it as a transitional step to opening a private medical practice or retiring. 

  • Patient-focused care
    • As a locum tenens hospitalist, you will get to spend more time with patients as you will typically have less paperwork and other administrative duties than a full-time physician. 
  • Travel
    • Locum tenens hospitalist jobs offer the opportunity to travel to new cities and experience the different healthcare systems and practices. After working short term contracts, many locum tenens hospitalists may decide to take a permanent job or partnership in an area they liked best. It’s the ultimate “try before you buy” career experience. 
  • Tax benefits
    • As a locum tenens physician, you are considered an independent contractor. You have the ability to deduct expenses like home office, cell phone, vehicle, and health insurance premiums. In addition, locum tenens physicians are able to open a simplified employee pension plan as a way to save for retirement.
  • Supplemental income
    • One of the main reasons physicians choose to work locum tenens jobs is to supplement their income. Picking up extra shifts on weekends or holidays is an easy way for locum tenens physicians to pay off student loans or work towards a financial goal. 
  • Avoid burnout
    • Working as a locum tenens hospitalist is a great way for physicians to avoid burnout and find the satisfaction that comes from providing quality healthcare to patients. Imagine having the opportunity to work with different patient populations, in different facilities, in different regions as often as you’d like!

How do you become a locum tenens doctor?

In order to become a locum tenens hospitalist, you will work closely with a third party staffing group like Lucidity. You will fill out a series of questions about your preferences that will allow us to find and match you with the best locum tenens hospitalist job. If traveling is an option you are open to, your staffing agency will work to find locum tenens hospitalist jobs in a location you are excited by. If you prefer to stay close to home, there are often ample job opportunities to serve as a locum tenens hospitalist in your local community. 

Once a locum tenens hospitalist job is found, the staffing agency will work with you on any contracting, credentialing, state licensing (if needed), travel and living arrangements, and act as your advocate during the negotiation process.

The timeline for a locum tenens hospitalist job can range from a few days to up to two years. The length of the job assignment is defined by the hospital you will be working with. The staffing agency you work with will take into account your starting date, medical specialty and certifications, states you are licensed in, preferred rate, and experience working in similar facilities to determine if you are a good match. 

How much do locum tenens hospitalists make?

As a locum tenens hospitalist, you have control over where you work and the rates you will accept. This means that you are able to negotiate your income to meet your goals. With this in mind, it is also important to realize that several factors affect the hourly rate of a locum tenens hospitalist. 

  • Hospital location and facility type
    • Location can be a huge deciding factor on the salary offered. Rural areas tend to have a higher demand for locum tenens hospitalists compared to larger urban areas such as New York or Chicago. This means that a smaller rural location may be willing to pay a higher rate when compared to a big city hospital where the competition for a locum tenens hospitalist job is more fierce. Some locum tenens staffing agencies will offer a bonus to fill rural locum tenens hospitalist jobs for an extended period of time. On the other hand, you should expect locum tenens rates to be commensurate with the regional cost of living. While a rate in rural Arkansas may seem low to a physician who lives in Los Angeles, it is likely extremely competitive for the region. When deciding on a locum tenens hospitalist opportunity, you may need to assess if the area you live in is more important to you when compared to the salary you will earn.
  • Skill set and patient load
    • Locum tenens hospitalist jobs that require specialized skills or higher patient load tend to pay more than those that are more general assignments or have a smaller workload. For hospitalists, we often see staffing requests that require physicians to have Board Certification in either Internal Medicine or Family Medicine, have an active BLS, ACLS, ATLS, PALS, or DEA, have experience with a particular EMR, have experience treating COVID-19 or kidney stones, etc. It all depends on the facility’s need. Some facilities do not require Board Certification, but instead will accept hospitalists with a certain number of years of experience.
  • Types of shifts and length of job time 
    • The types of shifts you take and the length of time they last can affect the rate offered. Working weekends, holidays, call, or night shifts may pay a higher rate when compared to more stereotypically desirable work schedules such as a day shift or Monday through Friday. 

Why should you work with a locum tenens staffing agency

While it is possible to find locum tenens hospitalists jobs on your own, working with a locum tenens staffing agency allows you to plan ahead. Staffing agencies offer access to multiple hospitalist job postings in one place, allowing you to plan your next assignment and have the details in place before your current job medical assignment ends. In addition, staffing agencies also offer the following benefits: 

  • Licensing
    • Many staffing agencies will handle the documentation and verification process and act as a liaison between the physicians, states boards, and various offices that are contacted during the application process. 
  • Travel and housing expertise
    • Many staffing agencies include travel and housing reimbursement in the negotiation process. Some agencies will even assist you with booking those travel arrangements.
  • Malpractice Coverage
    • It is common for the staffing agency to provide some form of malpractice coverage in the contract, however, details and coverage limits may vary. The hospital has the option to provide your malpractice coverage, too, but the agency will provide it if they choose not to. Malpractice coverage is an important part of being a locum tenens hospitalist and having an agency assist in navigating the requirements is helpful. It is important to know your obligations ahead of time as malpractice insurance can be a significant cost that may impact your decision on a particular locum tenens job. 
  • Negotiation
    • Working directly with a locum tenens staffing agency allows you to negotiate the rate, shift preference, start date, days off and other job details important to you. Locum tenens hospitalists typically earn more per hour when compared to a permanent medical position. 

How to choose a locum tenens agency 

When choosing a locum tenens staffing agency, physicians should look for the several qualities.You have the right to evaluate different firms and choose the one that best represents you. 

  • Make sure that the company provides some form of malpractice insurance 
  • Ask about the payroll history and ensure they have the financial resources to pay their physicians regularly
  • Check to see if the company offers services such as licensing, credentialing, travel and housing arrangements

If you are ready to start looking at locum tenens hospitalist opportunities, Lucidity is a great place to start. By using 15+ components about you and your preferences, we filter out the noise to deliver the best job matches to you directly. As a bonus, all fully verified physicians in our platform can log in to see the open jobs any time they want. Yes, that means no waiting for the phone to ring when you are in search of the perfect role. If you’re ready to sign up as a locum tenens hospitalist, create a Lucidity account today.