Locum Tenens: A Cure for the Physician Shortage

Locum Tenens Doctors

Shortage Incoming – Will Your Facility Be Ready?

There is a physician shortage in our country right now and current trends indicate that the outlook is grim. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 1 in 3 doctors are over age 55 and likely to retire during the next 20 years. This mass retirement will coincide with the baby boomer generation turning 70, potentially leading to a shortage of physician care just when the need is picking up.

The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reports that there are approximately 27 physicians in patient care per 10,000 civilians in the US, with variation from state to state. With so many physicians due to retire in the near future and not enough new grads coming in to replace them, this ratio is likely to skew even lower.

Increasing Healthcare Needs

In addition to the imbalance in patient-physician ratios in our communities, there is another concern that goes hand in hand with an aging population - increased healthcare visits.

According to a recent AAMC report, patients age 65 and older make an average of 6-7 physician visits per year versus the average 2-4 visits of patients under 65. As more of the population ages into the over 65 group, they will require increased care on a massive scale.

Furthermore, long term care and treatments for costly diseases of the elderly will contribute to the increasing demand for healthcare providers. Who will serve the needs of the aging population? Thankfully, there is good news.

Locum Tenens Can Fill the Gap

Locum tenens physicians are poised to aid your facility during the physician shortage as well as many short-term situations. They can give your facility the ability to keep a position staffed until you find a permanent team member who truly fits your facility’s culture and needs. For some facilities, such as trauma centers, keeping certain positions staffed is vital to maintaining compliance with state mandated levels. If you find a perfect match in your locum, you may even be able to work out a locum-to-permanent agreement.

There are numerous advantages to utilizing this workforce such as the maneuverability of short term staff. When your facility has a sudden, unexpected opening due to a resignation or medical leave, what do you do? A locum can fill that gap. Perhaps your facility only needs a temporary solution while a physician is out on vacation or leave, or maybe it is taking a little bit longer than expected to fill an opening. Locums can keep things up and running in the interim.

Facilities can also utilize locum tenens staff as a means of combating physician burnout and aiding retention efforts. Letting your medical staff know that things will be covered if they go on vacation or take time off to deal with health issues gives them the peace of mind to relax and come back ready to work again.

Locum tenens physicians are an excellent solution when your facility experiences a sudden uptick in the patient census. For example, a particularly severe flu season could result in higher census than normal for that time of year. Facilities trying to cope with the increased demand can utilize locums to ease the burden of their staff and serve an urgent need.

Yet another advantage to using locum tenens staff is the ability to draw from a nationwide talent pool instead of just the local community. This can be essential for staffing an unusual specialty or if a facility has difficulty filling certain positions due to community factors such as a remote rural location. Locums may be more amenable to the situation since it is a temporary assignment for them.