Temporary Staffing Common in HM, Study Reports

One in 10 hospitalists has worked locum tenens in the past year, according to a study of the practice released this week.

Locum Leaders, a locum tenens staffing agency in Alpharetta, Ga., put the study together this summer to define for the first time just how prevalent the practice of temporary staffing is and what motivates physicians to do the work. The report found that of hospitalists who work as locums tenens, 82% do it in addition to their full-time jobs and 11% do it as their full-time jobs.

Robert Harrington Jr., MD, SFHM, chief medical officer for Locum Leaders and an SHM board member, says the phenomenon allows some hospitalists to learn more about an institution before signing a long-term contract. It also affords other physicians flexibility, higher earning potential, or just the chance to "try something on for size before they buy."

"On the physician side, there are opportunities out there for you to not strain yourself immensely to increase your compensation, to travel to places you may not normally get to go, and to see how different programs are structured and operate," he says. "To see a more worldly view of hospital medicine."

For hospitals, even though locum physicians can cost more in salary, they can provide an opportunity for savings, as the hospital does not have to contribute to healthcare, pensions, or other costs. To wit, locum physicians can gross 30% to 40% more per year for the same number of shifts as a typical FTE hospitalist.

"They’re all independent contractors," Dr. Harrington adds. "The increase in compensation that locum tenens physicians are able to demand, for the most part, comes from the difference between having a full-time employee versus an independent contractor."

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