The demand for locum tenens services is growing. Assignments for physicians are getting longer and there is a rising demand for specialists in primary care, emergency medicine, and behavioral health.
A temporary staffing solution with roots in the 1970's has evolved to meet the changing needs of the healthcare industry.
Forty years ago, locum tenens physicians were commonly called on to fill short-term gaps in staffing for a week or two. Today, they are in great demand for a wide variety of situations says Sean Ebner, president at Staff Care, a locum tenens staffing firm headquartered in Dallas.
The results of Staff Care's annual survey revealed that 94% of healthcare facility managers used locum tenens during the last 12 months.
Improved access and demand for care has given physician hiring and staffing a boost, but the healthcare industry's needs have evolved. The way hospitals and health systems use alternative staffing arrangements and locum tenens resources is shifting.
Ebner believes the real driver of demand for locum tenens docs is scarcity. "[It's] high, and it continues to get more severe," Ebner says.
Here are four ways the use of new locum tenens has changed over the decades.
1. Longer Assignments
Old Way: Locum tenens placements typically lasted a couple of weeks to relieve short-term gaps in employment, such as vacations.
New Way: Assignments are getting longer. Nearly 40 percent of the clinicians surveyed by Staff Care said their ideal assignment would last between one and four months; 16.5% said an ideal assignment would last between nine and 12 months.
Some organizations might bring on a locum tenens physician while searching for a permanent hire; hospitals located in resort areas or college towns will use them to beef up staffing during the busy season.
Lena J. Weiner is an associate editor at HealthLeaders Media.