Locum Tenens: The Past, Present and Future

What it Means to Work Locum Tenens Today


As we head into 2016 and speculate the future of healthcare, it is important to understand the roots that helped establish what it means to work locum tenens today. Locum tenens is a Latin phrase that means “to hold place for, or to substitute,” or in layman’s terms: a temporary physician. The phrase gained popularity and momentum in the 1970s after a federal grant was given to the Health Systems Research Institute (HSRI), aimed at recruiting physicians to under-served areas of the western United States.

Therus Kolff and Alan Kronhaus, known as the pioneers of locum tenens, were instrumental to the project. Their efforts helped form the first national locum tenens staffing agency in 1979.
In the past, healthcare facilities were reluctant to rely on locum tenens physicians for staffing shortages. In 1987, only 4 percent of all physicians worked locum tenens assignments, however due to high patient to doctor ratios, the demand for locum tenens professionals grew. In 2002, the locum tenens concept became more attractive and approximately 26,000 doctors took on assignments that year.

Do the Locum-Tenens-Motion! Locum Tenens Today

locum_past_present_futureAccording to a study from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the United States will be short 90,000 doctors by the year 2025. Yes, you read that correctly… 9-0-0-0-0 doctors (with four zeroes).

Now more than ever, the need for locum tenens physicians and APCs is at an all-time high. A recent study estimated about $2.5 billion dollars is spent annually on locum tenens to help fill the gap between short-term and long-term physician coverage in almost every medical specialty.

Doctors are opting to accept locum tenens assignments for many different reasons, such as flexible schedule, travel opportunities, extra income, and clinical experience. Older physicians are leaving their full-time jobs to work locum tenens assignments and new doctors are jumping on the locum tenens bandwagon right after completing their residency.

The perception of working locum tenens shifted, becoming a desired career path. Today’s market is providing locum tenens physicians with new opportunities and benefits. The locum tenens motion is just picking up speed, and as patient demands continue to increase, locum tenens doctors will find competitive salaries and more jobs to choose from.