Transitioning to Locum Tenens Work

If pundits are to be believed, there will be an overwhelming need for qualified healthcare workers in the coming years.  With many doctors and nurses approaching the age of retirement, fewer students entering healthcare professions, and a growing number of insured individuals seeking medical services, there will soon be a shortage of professionals to care for those in need.

What does this mean for current healthcare professionals and those just entering the medical field? For one, it could mean a lot more job openings as well as alternative job types. To fill this growing need, many healthcare providers and facilities are opening up locum jobs to fill any gaps in coverage.

If you're interested in joining the many healthcare professionals entering a growing Locum Tenens network, there are a few things you need to know to make a successful transition to this career path. Here are some basics to help you make the leap to Locum Tenens.

Work and Travel

The flexibility enjoyed with locum jobs is one of the top reasons medical professionals transition to this type of work. No longer will your schedule be out of your hands. When working locum jobs you can choose to take a short-term assignment to accommodate family or personal commitments or opt for a long-term contract for more consistent pay.

As Locum Tenens positions are accepted in all 50 states, you could find yourself recruited for jobs across the country. This not only provides you with the opportunity for extensive travel, if you so choose, but without having to foot all of the costs.  Contract negotiations often, but not always, include travel and relocation costs.

Finding Job Placements

If you are ready to transition to Locum Tenens work, then the first order of business will be to research medical staffing agencies that specialize in Locum Tenens. Most hospitals and healthcare staffing policies require hiring only Locum Tenens Providers that are vetted and verified by an agency.

There are hundreds of agencies in the Locum Tenens network and you can work with more than one as you look for your next placement. Maintaining a good accounting of your job submissions – and which recruitment agencies you’ve used for each open position – will greatly enhance your chances of securing a placement.

Payment and Taxes

If you previously worked at a hospital or in your own practice, you may be accustomed to an annual salary paid in regular bi-weekly or monthly paychecks with tax withholdings already submitted on your behalf. Locum Tenens Physicians, however, are independent contractors and receive a 1099, not employees.  This is true even if you work with medical staffing agencies.  Nurse Practioners, on the other hand, may see little change in their payment schedule and tax withholdings as they can be hired as a regular employee with a W2.

As such, you may receive compensation at an hourly or daily rate.  You can negotiate ‘gratis’ hours for after-hours calls and other benefits, such as per diem lodging costs, as well. Your contract determines your payment schedule and overall compensation and may change with each placement.

Independent contractors with a 1099 are also responsible for paying all required state and federal taxes. Because your income may change with each job placement, you may opt (or the IRS may require) to pay estimated quarterly taxes, instead of just one payment in April. While this is a burden unique to Locum Tenens and other independent contractors, it does come with its fair share of benefits.

There are many tax deductions and write-offs you can take as a Locum Tenens that are unavailable to other full time healthcare professionals. These include travel expenses, health insurance reimbursement, and continuing education classes.


Most medical facilities include liability policies that cover their contract workers, including Locum Tenens. With each new position you take as a Locum Tenens, review the included liability insurance and the rating of the policy, and you may realize that you won’t need to take out any additional coverage your own.

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