The Basics on Becoming a Locum Tenens

A locum (or locum tenens) doctor is a person who temporarily takes over the duties of another physician in his or her absence. Locum tenens comes from the Latin phrase that means, “a term position” and “placeholder.” Residents can accept locum contracts as can experienced doctors. A locum goes where he or she is required to go. Despite the mobile or transient nature of this type of lifestyle, locum doctors are still governed by the same regulations as all other doctors. The concept of a locum tenens position has been around for more than 100 years. Being a locum doctor is tantamount to being a substitute teacher.

Why Become a Locum Physician?

Many doctors make the decision to become locum tenens practitioners in order that they do not get bogged down with administrative duties and can concentrate on what they love most- attending to people who need medical assistance. Still others enjoy working in different settings and being able to travel to different parts of the world. Learning is always a part of a locum’s job and the richness of life experience can be amplified when you choose the mobile lifestyle.

The freedom that the locum position affords is what appeals to many physicians. They are not tied down to any one location and are able to schedule contracts for work when and where they wish. Short-term contracts do not involve the type of commitment involved in a full time position and that allows locums to pursue other professional and personal interests. Instead of waiting for a day off, holiday or a vacation, the locum can schedule his or her life in the manner he or she chooses to.

Vocational Choice

More and more health care practitioners are choosing the locum tenens lifestyle as a vocational choice, as opposed to simply a way to make extra money. Many people enjoy the flexibility that it affords as well as the opportunity to expand their skills and help people in different clinical settings. It is also a way to zero in on where you feel you can contribute the most to other people’s lives.

Filling an Immediate Need

Locum doctors are individuals who must be available on short notice to fill a need that is immediate. If a doctor is sick, on vacation or has been called away quite suddenly (such as due to a death in the family), a locum practitioner can easily fill the bill to provide quality care until the permanent physician has returned to work. Yet other practices hire locums because they are looking for a permanent replacement and need to fill the position temporarily until they find a suitable person.

Many practices could not stay in business if it were not for the contracts filled by locum physicians. For example, most hospitals need a radiologist on duty at all times. On a temporary basis, the radiology department needs a practitioner and locums are an excellent choice. It is rare to find a hospital that does not provide radiology services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Due to their varied types of experiences and the skills they are able to pick up from working in different settings, locum tenens doctors are valuable assets to any practice. If it is a solo practice, the locum practitioner might bring skills that otherwise would be lacking. As well, this saves the practice money because patients can receive a given service in-house as opposed to having to be given a referral for another healthcare provider outside of the practice.


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