Part 1: Making Locum Tenens Part of Your Staffing Solution

In our symplr education series webcast, we welcome back Donna Goestenkors of Team Med Global Consulting, LLC and Susan Collier of CHG Healthcare Services, with special guest Tammy Pressnall of Presbyterian Healthcare Services. In our previous series, Locum Tenens’ Answer to The Practitioner Shortage, we discussed the critical practitioner shortage and the surging growth of locum tenens practitioners. In Part 2, we will examine how to make locum tenens (a Latin phrase meaning “to hold a place”) an essential part of your staffing solution.

There is no question about the projected practitioner shortage, which is expected to reach 100,000 doctors by 2020. There is also little doubt that hiring locum tenens practitioners has become an increasingly popular option during difficult workloads[1]. However, the larger question is how do organizations prioritize when partnering with a locum tenens agency to ensure continuity of care?

Quality Markers of a Top Locum Tenens Agency

Call it a perfect storm – the pool of practitioners is shrinking while the number of patients is rapidly accelerating. The result? An increased reliance on locum tenens practitioners on a short or long­-term basis to fill in staffing gaps that arise from vacations, downsizing, and vacancies. How bad is it? Consider that by 2025, the total physician demand is projected to increase by 17 percent due to the aging population and growing demand for care.[2] For this reason, medical facilities look for temporary talent who have high-quality credentials and the required soft skills (personality and communication) to work with an aging and growing population.

  1. Quality Credentials and Soft Skills

Let’s face it, practitioners with high-quality credentials and strong soft skills will have a smoother time making the transition to a temporary position. In particular, client organizations are looking for medical staff candidates who have graduated from an education and training program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

Ultimately, practitioners who are highly competent with soft skills will have an easier time communicating with coworkers during heavy workloads. As a result, they will be more invested in the care of their patients and communities and more capable at filling in staff gaps during urgent hires.

  1. Availability of Practitioners

Inevitably, organizations are partnering with locum tenens agencies because they need access to a greater pool of talent with immediate availability. Not surprisingly, the next most important factor to consider when partnering with an agency is practitioner availability. Studies conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) project a deficit of 131,000 physicians by 2025[4].

When Staff Care surveyed locum tenens practitioners about how long they intend to work as a locum tenens practitioner, nearly 70 percent said they intend to work 1-10 years[5]. In addition, 14 percent intend to work 11 or more years. Clearly, the flexibility and freedom of this position is gaining a foothold in the profession. As physician and physician assistant shortages persists, bridging the care gap with locum tenens staffing agencies with a reliable pool of available practitioners will be a major priority.

  1. Practitioners Who Can Meet Target Start Dates

Beyond supplying a reliable pipeline of locum tenens practitioners, another major factor for organizations is how effectively and quickly they can meet tight target start dates. This is particularly important when you consider the results of a Staff Care survey. The top three reasons why organizations hired locum tenens practitioners was to fill in for a loss of staff[6]:

  • 1% - Fill in a vacancy until a permanent doctor is found
  • 62% - Fill in staff who have left
  • 7% - Vacation/continuing medical education

Another driver for this trend is to prevent burnout. Annual surveys by the Mayo Clinic found that physician burnout has risen from 45% to 54%[7]. As a result, permanent staff will typically take more time off annually as work-life balance grows in importance. Locum tenens agencies who can secure qualified practitioners with tight target start dates will enable the client organization to meet a higher standard of care.

Ready to learn more? Stay tuned for part 2 of our Making Locum Tenens Part of Your Staffing Solution series where we’ll explore the criteria used by agencies hiring practitioners. Finding the right practitioner talent can be a time-consuming process, especially during a shortage. Relieve your credentialing needs with enterprise-grade credentialing solutions by symplr. To start your trial with symplr’s effective and user-friendly credentialing solutions, Schedule a Demo today!

Making Locum Tenens Part of Your Staffing Solution

[1] Phillip M. “2014 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends”. Staff Care. https://www.staffcare.com/uploadedFiles/2014-survey-of-temp-physicians.pdf

[2] “Physician Supply and Demand Through 2025: Key Findings”. Association of American Medical Colleges. https://www.aamc.org/download/426260/data/physiciansupplyanddemandthrough2025keyfindings.pdf

[3] “Single GME Accreditation System”. Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

[4] “Physician Supply and Demand Through 2025: Key Findings”. Association of American Medical Colleges.

[5] Phillip M. “2014 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends”. Staff Care. https://www.staffcare.com/uploadedFiles/2014-survey-of-temp-physicians.pdf

[6] Ibid.

[7] Robert P. “Doctor Burnout Rates on the Rise”. U.S. National Library of Medicine.


Donna Goestenkors

About the Author
Donna Goestenkors

Donna is a full time healthcare consultant, speaker, author, educator, and mentor serving the Medical Staff Services industry for over 40 years. Her diverse project experience includes assignments in every work environment and rapport building among all levels of professional and executive staff. Donna is a past President of NAMSS and her client work covers all of the industry's environments from Healthcare Systems to critical access hospitals.

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