Choosing a Locum Tenens Company

by Tera Tuten on March 11, 2011

Locum tenens is a burgeoning business, a driving force in the economy and a practical approach to meeting the needs of a medical market that is fast becoming overworked and understaffed. Staffing companies that specialize in temporary medical personnel placement at hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities are currently billing over $2 billion a year, and the need is only expected to increase in the coming years.

Choosing a locum tenens company to work with can be tricky. There are a number of factors to consider before making a decision that can have a direct effect on your future. As a healthcare professional, maintaining the integrity of your reputation is paramount, and deserved or not, your reputation is tied to that of the locum tenens company you select. Here’s how to determine which locum tenens company is the right fit, both personally and professionally:

Identify Your Goals

Before you look at agencies, decide what your working goals are and what type of experience will work best for you. Is your goal to sample different professional environments and settings? To explore different geographical areas for potential future relocation? Would you prefer working close to home within a limited area? On a more personal note, will you be traveling with a companion, a child, or a pet? Determining an outline of your personal and professional goals will give you a place to start as you search for the right company to represent you.

Use the Internet

Before contacting a locum tenens company, visit their web site. Read the information they provide, then search for the buzz – complaints or kudos from people in the know. Look for independent confirmation that the company’s conduct reflects the image they project. Finding a reputable business is much easier than it once was now that every opinion is public.

Assess the Recruiter

Once you’ve narrowed the field to a few top choices, contact the companies and speak to a recruiter. Pay attention to the pitch. Is the recruiter’s goal to sign you up or to find the right position to meet your needs. If it feels like a sales pitch, walk away. A good recruiter asks a lot of questions designed to match applicants with opportunities. Poor placement can end with either you or your temporary employer – or both – being unhappy, a situation that can spell disaster for a budding career.

Get References

You can further narrow your choices by asking for references. Speak to medical professionals who have worked for the company and find out if the company is as good as its word. In addition, ask what positions are currently open and do some research on the facilities. Some doctors may relish working in a challenging inner city hospital, while others may feel more comfortable in quiet upscale private hospitals. A good locum tenens company will have a wide range of opportunities. It wouldn’t hurt to ask the recruiter what positions he would recommend for you based on your interview, either. It’s a good way to gauge whose interests he’s really representing.

Practical Considerations

Compensation involves more than a simple paycheck. Once you’ve found the companies that fit your needs, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. Ask everything. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • How will I be paid?
  • When will I be paid?
  • Does the company offer paid vacations?
  • Can I expect bonuses?
  • Does the company offer health benefits?
  • How long is a typical assignment?
  • Is travel paid up front or reimbursed?
  • Am I expected to make living arrangements?
  • Suppose I do not agree with the living arrangements?
  • Can I terminate an assignment early if it is unacceptable?
  • What additional support, education, or credentials does the company offer?

A quality locum tenens agency will answer all of these questions and more without hesitation. Their compensation package should be clearly outlined, along with standard company policies and procedures.

With the basics out of the way, look for the company offerings that really make a quality locum tenens company stand out from the rest. Traveling comes with a unique set of challenges, and the top locum tenens companies will help you overcome the obstacles. The most important things physicians must deal with are insurance and licensing.

Does the Company Provide Licensing Assistance?

Being licensed to work in a number of states gives you a wider variety of choices and the potential for higher pay. A quality locum tenens operation will handle the arrangements for licensure to ensure that everything is in order before each assignment.

Liability Insurance

Perhaps the stickiest issue any medical practitioner can face is that of liability insurance. Traveling doctors, working in a variety of unfamiliar settings are often at even greater risk. Choose a company to represent you that covers you under its own. This incidentally, is one of the strongest arguments for doing locum tenens work. The cost of malpractice insurance has driven many doctors out of private business, and in some cases, to different states. Before you accept the insurance offered by any locum tenens company, examine the offering carefully. All policies are not created equal.

Many companies offer a type of insurance known as a “claims-made” policy. This coverage alone is inadequate. Most malpractice suits are filed long after the incident and would not be covered under claims-made policies without a rider, called a tail, which extends the coverage period.

There is also a more comprehensive type of insurance called an “occurrence” policy that covers the physician no matter when an incident is filed. This is the best insurance available and requires no tail for coverage after the fact. It is a far more expensive option, and most locum tenens agencies carry more affordable claims-made policies with tails.

The last thing to verify is the insurance carrier’s rating. There are a number of independent research companies that provide information on how insurance companies perform. You want to make sure that the carrier used by the locum tenens company you are considering is on solid financial footing and has a good reputation. If the insurance carrier has a Standard and Poor rating below an A-, pass.

Signing with a reliable company that meets your needs and preferences and offers a benefits package that includes comprehensive coverage with a quality insurer is the key to a long and satisfying career as a locum tenens physician.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Darryl Heath 03.15.11 at 12:38 pm

Make sure your locums company gives you a detailed contract before you take the assignment! Read all the details and give them changes if you don’t feel comfortable with anything in the contract. The best locum tenens companies will allow you to make adjustments.

George 03.15.11 at 9:07 pm

It’s important that your locum tenens company gives you all the details about each opportunity. They should make the credentialing process as smooth as possible by helping you complete all the paperwork needed to start the assignment. And the leading locum tenens company will make sure that your best interest takes priority throughout the entire process.

Bobby Gandy 03.16.11 at 8:54 am

Good references are key to getting a good locum tenens assignment. Whether you are a physician who has just completed residency or a doctor with 20 years of experience, the recommendations will be required to complete the credentialing / privileging process. Take some time to contact those that you would like to use as references to inform them of your new job search so they can be prepared on your behalf.

Kevin 03.16.11 at 9:21 am

A good locum tenens company should give you a clear, simple picture on the process which takes you from curious about locums to on-the-job working. Your recruiter should question you on your geographic limitations and practice preferences, and should know when you can phone interview with a client. You should be given a list of documents which need to be submitted and have an idea if the credentialing period is short and sweet or long and drawn out so that you can plan your start date and commitment accordingly.

Barbara 03.16.11 at 9:22 am

Your locum tenens company can be very instrumental in helping you secure a position in a timely manner. These companies keep in constant contact with the hospitals and facilities and are updated on their current needs.

Austin Gooch 03.16.11 at 9:25 am

Another good indicator of a good Locum Tenens company is if the recruiter keeps you informed from your first conversation to the completion of your assignment and beyond. The recruiter should let you know of the progress that has been made on your behalf and what the next step is going to be.

Troy 03.16.11 at 9:37 am

If you post your profile in a public forum you will receive many phone calls from locum tenens companies around the country. Be especially careful of the first call “closer”, the recruiter that tries to “sell” you on a specific job without even knowing you or what you are looking for. As a single person, what would would you think of getting a marriage proposal within minutes of your first date with someone? Be sure to check out the locum company website to see what current offerings they have and if they are market-viable.

Kristi Moore 03.16.11 at 9:38 am

A good locum tenens company is also measured to the recruitment team you work with- whether you’re a facility looking for a physician or a physician looking for locum tenens opportunities. If you’re working for someone who makes unrealistic promises then you don’t end up going anywhere, just being let down. A good recruiter will be honest with you about expectations, what will be involved and how long it will take. An indicator, as stated above, is the amount of questions asked. Do you feel like the Locum Tenens company understands YOUR specific needs?

Dawn 03.16.11 at 9:43 am

You want a locum tenens company that has YOUR best interest in mind, not theirs. Honesty, trust, and communication are key factors when choosing a locum tenens company. May sure you are comfortable with your company.

Jenn 03.16.11 at 4:27 pm

A good locum tenens company will ask many questions to learn what opportunity you are looking for and try everything in their power to find you that perfect fit! As stated above, if you are talking to a recruiter and it sounds like a business call it probably is and you should walk away. A recruiter should be someone who really wants to help you find a locum tenens opportunity and has your best interests in mind. I think the same should go when a facility is looking for a physician. Finding the right locum tenens company can be a difficult search but once you find it you will know that you are working with the right company and recruiter.

Robert Bryant 04.04.13 at 4:59 pm

Definitely do your homework before you take an assignment! I went with a smaller locums company and ran into all kinds of problems…including not being paid for weeks. I recommend going with one of the large national locums companies like Soliant, CompHealth, etc.


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