Early-Career Physicians Working Temp Roles To 'Test Drive' Practice Settings


                                                                 By Alan Condon

Physicians and advanced practice providers are opting for the flexibility of temporary, locum tenens work in seek of improved job conditions and to relieve burnout, according to an April 23 survey.

One of the largest provider of healthcare interim leadership and executive search services in the U.S., asked physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who recently have worked locum tenens why they do so.

The number one reason, according to 86% of respondents, was a better work schedule, followed closely by addressing feelings of burnout (80%).

"During the COVID pandemic, healthcare professionals began to rethink how, when and where they work," Jeff Decker, president of a physician solutions division, said in a news release. "Locum tenens offer relief from the long, inflexible work hours and onerous bureaucratic duties that often cause dissatisfaction and burnout among physicians and other healthcare providers."

Locum tenens providers also offer staffing flexibility for hospitals, health systems and other healthcare facilities amid ongoing workforce challenges.

Despite survey respondents' positive feelings about locum tenens, many physicians, NPs and PAs said that they would return to permanent positions if conditions were right. Forty-five percent of respondents said they would stop working locum tenens and return to a permanent position if schedules, compensation and other practice conditions were favorable; 43% said they would stick to locum tenens.

"Many physicians and other healthcare professionals feel they are being pushed from permanent positions by unsatisfactory work conditions," Mr. Decker said. "To get them back, employers should offer practice conditions that appeal to today’s providers."

The survey also suggests that physicians, NPs and PAs are choosing to work locum tenens earlier in their careers.

Most respondents (81%) said they began working locum tenens either right out of training or in mid-career, while 19% began working locum tenens after retiring from full-time positions. By contrast, in 2016, only 64% of those surveyed began working locum tenens right after training or in mid-career, while 36% began after retirement.

"Locum tenens is no longer an alternative just for healthcare providers in the twilight of their careers," Mr. Decker said. "Younger providers are working locum tenens as a way to ‘test drive’ practice settings or to opt out of practice environments that don't meet their needs."

The number of physicians working locum tenens is growing, from an estimated 26,000 in 2002 to more than 52,000 in 2024, reflecting an increasing diversity of practice styles.


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