Why choose locum tenens?

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Locum Connections

To answer the question, “Why choose locum tenens” requires first addressing the question of who practices locum tenens as either a full-time career or on a part-time or occasional basis. In this article, we break the who question into five categories, each one followed by answers to the why question.

Just out of training

Doctors fresh out of residency or fellowship who have yet to decide where they want to settle down find that locum tenens offers an excellent opportunity to explore different areas of the country. Like the idea of living in Montana but not sure how you would handle the winters? With locum tenens, you can find out firsthand.

The ability to try out a variety of practice settings is another common reason physicians early in their careers choose locum tenens. Those who trained in big city teaching hospitals can explore what it is like to work in a two-doctor office or rural health clinic. Physicians who completed training in community hospitals and had clinical rotations mostly in small practices can try out a multi-specialty clinic or work in a large health system before making a commitment.


Sometimes even highly paid physicians need to earn extra money. Locum tenens offers the option to do just that. Looking to pay off your educational loans ahead of schedule? Have children in college? Contracting to practice on weekends or during vacations is one way to achieve important goals. One caveat: Do not work so much that you fall into the trap of career burnout. Money is important, but only to a point.

In transition

Doctors who need to keep working during a professional or personal transition find locum tenens to be a solution. Examples include: the internist who accepts a job in a new state and finds her medical licensing or hospital credentialing taking longer than expected; the surgeon recently out of residency waiting to begin a fellowship or research position; the radiologist who agreed to a year-long sabbatical but found himself bored and ready to get back to work after 6 months.


For the physician who is ready to slow down but not retire completely, locum tenens offers the option to stay involved in clinical medicine, continue to generate an income, and at the same time enjoy other aspects of life such as traveling, volunteering, or engaging in a hobby or passion. Locum tenens physicians have been known to request engagements in areas of the country where they have children and grandchildren.

Locum tenens as a career

Physicians who choose locum tenens full-time do so for a variety of reasons. Some are pursuing interests related to medicine such as designing medical equipment or launching a technology venture. These doctors want to stay active clinically and also have time to nurture a business. Others simply like the idea of taking care of patients without the administrative and business responsibilities usually associated with practice. On the personal side, locum tenens works well for single parents who need blocks of time off to spend with their children. Serious athletes may find that locum tenens offers the flexibility and time off needed to train and compete. Physicians who take pleasure in traveling the world, doing missionary or other volunteer work for extended periods, or those engaged in a creative endeavor that requires uninterrupted blocks of time all enjoy the benefits of practicing locum tenens.

If you are considering locum tenens and wondering if you can make a good living at it, contact two or three NALTO member locum tenens agencies (view NALTO company members) to find out what the going rate is for your specialty. Then, think about how many days each year you would ideally like to work. Do the math and you’ll have your answer. It is not uncommon for physicians who provide locum tenens services on a regular basis to find that their compensation is higher than when they work in a traditional, full-time practice setting–—with the added bonus of fewer headaches.

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