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Locum Tenens Physicians

This temporary position is becoming a regular need for hospitals across the country.

Although temporary for hospitals that employ them, locum tenens physicians have a permanent role in the healthcare industry.

For Locum Tenens Physicians

Locum tenens positions in general are on trend right now for a number of factors. The Affordable Care Act has put healthcare workers in demand to respond to the influx of people seeking health services who weren't insured or able to do so before. This coupled with the aging population-both the providers exiting the job force because of retirement and elderly population make locum tenens an attractive option for many medical centers.

This demand is expected to grow through 2016 according to Staffing Industry Analysts. The U.S. Congressional Budget Office projects an additional 6 million non-elderly Americans to be added to the list of insured for that year, reducing hospital debt as a result of less uninsured admissions.

SEE ALSO: The Locum Tenens Job Market

Meanwhile job outlook for physicians is expected to grow by 18% through 2022 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The annual mean wage for physicians and surgeons working in a temporary help setting in 2014 was $211,100.

In addition to having the skillset of a regular physician, The National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO) explains they must have adaptability to react to new environments and be flexible to the changing needs of hospitals. They must also be independent individuals who find fulfillment in networking with new staff, as well as new patients on a normal basis.

"A lot of recent graduates use locums as a way to try out different practice settings before they settle down and sign a long-term contract," said NALTO president Melissa Byington who also serves as president of CompHealth. "Many mid-career physicians see locums as way to step away from the business side of medicine-locums allow them to focus on taking care of patients, without worrying about managing staff or billing insurance companies."

Once hired, the NALTO does recommend that locum tenens physicians keep good records of all of their income as they will not be receiving a traditional W-2 form like regular employees would. They should also keep track of all of their expenses including, temporary housing, professional fees such as obtaining and renewing medical licenses, continuing medical education, journal subscriptions, uniform costs for lab coats and scrubs and sometimes health insurance premiums as they can often be deducted as business expenses.

Another route for these physicians is to use a staffing company that will help the physician handle or even pay for some of these items in addition to helping them gain employment.

For the Hiring Hospital

Hospitals seek out locum tenens physicians for short-term positions to temporarily replace a vacationing doctor or to fill a long-term gap in a more rural area. Either way, the position provides flexibility not only for the physician but the hospital that's hiring them as well.

In 2014 Staff Care, an AMN Healthcare company surveyed hospital managers, physicians who used locum tenens in a private practice setting and other medical groups via email. Their results, published in the 2015 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends found that 73% of healthcare facility managers reported using at least one locum tenens physician position in a typical month. Another 18% said they use four or more of these physicians to fill a gap.

Companies like CompHealth or Supplemental Healthcare work with both physicians and hospitals looking to recruit quality talent and maintain a database of candidates.

Before a contract is drafted up, the hospital or private practice should consider how long they need to fill the gap and run a background check on promising applicants.

"Hospitals should look for physicians who are good communicators, who have a good practice history, and who care about their patients," said Byington. "It's also important that hospitals use staffing agencies they can trust to send them quality physicians and who will take care of them if something goes wrong."

To plan for the transition, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends a locum tenens physician arrive one or two days before the exiting physician's last day of work. They need to help ensure patients will still be getting the same level of care they always do when all permanent staff is on-duty.

Chelsea Lacey-Mabe is a former staff writer.

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