Perhaps you have been practicing medicine long enough to remember when locum tenens was not perceived as a good thing. Way back then, locums were thought of as doctors who were not good enough to either hold a job or run a private practice. It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now.
Be that as it may, locum tenens is actually good for healthcare. Our system benefits greatly from the thousands of locums who pick up shifts at hospitals, clinics, and private practices around the country. Accessing medical care would be a lot different if locum tenens did not exist.
Not convinced? Consider the following three ways locum tenens benefits our system:
1. Locums Fill Staffing Holes
It is hard to write a post like this and not start with the doctor shortage. We all know that hospitals and clinics from coast to coast simply don’t have enough clinicians to meet staffing needs. These days, just about every hospital in the country turns to locum tenens at some point.
You might argue that locum tenens doesn’t solve the problem because locums are, by definition, temporary placeholders. That may be true, but there are plenty of clinicians who prefer to work their entire careers as locums. They are still providing a valuable service in doing so. They are still contributing to the goal of filling staffing holes, even if that means their contribution lasts only as long as it takes for the employer to hire someone permanently.
2. Locums Bring a Fresh Perspective
Institutionalized medicine has a way of growing stale without an occasional difference in perspective. One of the benefits of the locum medicine is that it provides a fresh perspective on a regular basis. As such, locum tenens brings to healthcare something that it desperately needs.
The thing about locum tenens work is that it is constantly changing. Clinicians are exposed to new ways of doing things with every new assignment. They meet new colleagues, share experiences with new patients, and see the best and worst of the system they work in. Their perspective can be invaluable to any employer willing to listen.
3. Locums Make Rural Medicine More Accessible
Last but certainly not least is the reality that locums are being relied on more frequently to provide medicine in rural areas. In many cases, rural patients would have no access to basic primary care if it weren’t for locum tenens doctors on temporary assignment.
Imagine living in a rural area yourself. You have to drive more than an hour just to access primary care at a small, regional hospital. As such, you are likely to ignore primary care for the most part. But what if a locum tenens physician came in and spent three months working in a clinic in town? Now you have the opportunity to take the entire family in for a visit.
Locum tenens medicine has been around in earnest since the 1970s. In its earliest days, it was populated by a handful of doctors willing to do what most others were not. It grew through the 1980s and into the 90s before temporarily receding again. Then it reemerged as we turned the calendar on the new century.
Locum tenens today is a strong and thriving industry populated by clinicians of all stripes. Some locum tenens practitioners choose to use it as a temporary steppingstone to something else. Others make a career of it. Still others utilize locum tenens has a wind down to retirement. In the end, it’s all good. Locum tenens is, at the end of the day, good for healthcare.