Making Locum Tenens Part of Your Staffing Solution | symplr Blog Feature
Donna Goestenkors

By: Donna Goestenkors on April 22nd, 2016

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Making Locum Tenens Part of Your Staffing Solution | symplr

Medical Service Professionals | Credentialing | Payor

Healthcare institutions are hiring Locum Tenens physicians to fill the gap left by staff shortages, retirement, and market demand.  What is the best way to hire a Locum Tenens physician to insure the quality of care for your institution?

The physician shortage: a persistent and looming issue

The American Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of nearly 120,000 doctors by the year 2030. Primary care physicians will be the most needed physicians (up to 49,300 open positions), but a profound need for surgical specialists (over 30,000 positions) is also expected.  

Our aging population, physician retirement, potential increased healthcare access and an increasing need to serve non-metropolitan areas puts pressure on facilities to attract qualified professionals and fill critical staff vacancies.

Why are Locum Tenens positions attractive to physicians?

A career as a physician is demanding, often leading to burnout due to lack of work-life balance. Annual surveys by the Mayo Clinic found that physician burnout has risen from 45% to 54% [1]. It can also be a financial struggle for physicians to invest in and maintain a client practice while meeting financial, billing, and regulatory demands.

When Staff Care surveyed practitioners regarding how long they intend to work as a Locum Tenens practitioner, nearly 70 percent said they intend to work 1-10 years [2]. In addition, 14 percent intend to work 11 or more years. Clearly, the flexibility and freedom of this flexible position is gaining a foothold in the medical profession.

Locum Tenens physicians are often equally qualified as their peers in a permanent position. A recent study by the Journal of Healthcare Management found that 85% of Locum Tenens physicians are board certified [3]. Locum Tenens physicians are highly qualified, pursue continuing education and are as committed to providing a high quality of care as their permanently employed peers.

Best practices for hiring Locum Tenens physicians


As physicians seek more flexibility, healthcare institutions must increasingly rely on this talent pool to fill a) staff vacancies or b) vacation or continuing medical education. These two reasons account for nearly 70% of all vacancies [2].

Staffing agencies and must be prepared to meet peak workloads, staff vacations, and training while meeting tight deadlines and hiring dates. Following best practices, as listed below, is essential.

Accreditation. Candidates must typically have graduated from an education and training program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). This ensures they have the education and experience necessary to fill the position.

Reviews and skill assessments. Client organizations only want to onboard the most qualified professionals. Screening practitioners through reviews and skill assessments can ensure that high standards are met. In addition, organizations look for practitioners who are highly competent with soft skills will have an easier time communicating with coworkers and invested in the care of their patients.

Background Check. Practitioner candidates must typically pass a drug test and background check, which varies from state-by-state or by specific job responsibilities. A candidate’s malpractice history will be reviewed and draw even greater scrutiny.

Credentialing and Orientation. The Focused Professional Practice Evaluation (FPPE) is kept by the agencies and then shared with the client organization. If a hiring arrangement is made, the candidate will then begin the organization’s credentialing and orientation process.

Onboarding is a critical part of their journey where they learn more about the organization’s expectations and culture. In a recent survey of Locum Tenens physicians, the majority of physicians had a strong interest in having a clear understanding of their workload [4] and expectations, which allows them to quickly integrate within the organization’s system and lessen their learning curve.

Liability Policy and History. Most organizations and agencies follow The Joint Commission (TJC) and the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) standards of liability policy review to qualify for credentialing. The NCQA standards take into consideration the practitioner’s current professional liability policy and previous 10-year incident history, including claims, lawsuits, and settlements [5].

Historically, The Joint Commission has allowed organizations to grant temporary privileges to Locum Tenens practitioners as long as they are compliant with federal regulations and meet the definition of temporary privileges as stipulated in TJC Standards.

Can institutions still provide quality care with Locum Tenens physicians?

A survey conducted by Staff Care found that healthcare organizations are increasingly satisfied with the quality of care provided by temporary physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, dentists, and other healthcare professionals. When health facility managers were asked to rate the skill level of locum tenens physicians [4]:

  • 71% responded as good or excellent

  • 27% responded as satisfactory

  • 1% responded as unsatisfactory

Are Locum Tenens physicians right for your team?

Locum Tenens physicians fill an important gap in today’s market, having the skills and experience necessary to provide quality care.  Ensuring that they are properly screened and prepared to join your workforce will ensure a successful relationship.

Integrating your Locum Tenens staff swiftly and smoothly has become a major priority for large hospitals and healthcare providers. Want to accelerate the time it takes to get your locum tenens practitioners integrated into your system? Watch this webcast to learn more about integrating Locum Tenens physicians into your staff.  Learn more about symplr and our enterprise-grade credentialing solution. Schedule a demo today!


  1. Robert P. “Doctor Burnout Rates on the Rise”. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  2. Phillip M. “2014 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends”. Staff Care.  
  3. Adam G. “Locum Tenens Physician: Good for your hospital?” LabSpaces. 
  4. Phillip M. “2015 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends”. Staff Care. 
  5. Carol C. “Credentialing Hoopla”. 

About 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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