Why Do Locum Tenens Physicians Get Paid More?

The locum tenens work model was developed during the 1970s in response to a shortage of physicians in rural America. The industry still helps address physician shortages today, and it is proving to be better and more rewarding for physicians than the traditional work model based on permanent placements. 

Notably, locum tenens physicians enjoy greater flexibility and higher salaries than permanent hires. Here is a brief guide on why and how locum tenens pay more. 

The Financial Appeal of Working Locum Tenens 

Locum tenens physicians earn more than permanent hires for various reasons. Most notably, physicians working locum tenens help address the ongoing physician shortage in the U.S. A recent report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) the country will experience a shortage of between 37,000 and 124,000 physicians by 2034

The ongoing and future shortage of physicians is comparable to the age-old concept of high demand and low supply. Ideally, a service's price increases as it becomes scarcer. Similarly, many hospitals experiencing physician shortages are paying more to get temporary physicians working locum tenens. 

Locum tenens salaries vary depending on their specialties. Here is an overview of the prevailing pay rates for the some of the most common locum tenens specialties: 

  • General Surgery – $1,100 to $1,400 per day
  • Radiology – $185 to $225 per hour
  • Hematology-Oncology – $150 to $175 per hour
  • Cardiology – $175 to $200 per hour
  • Emergency Medicine – $100 to $300 per hour
  • Family Medicine – $90 to $125 per hour 

According to data from a CHG Healthcare study, on average across all specialties, physicians who work locum tenens full-time make $32.45 per hour more than permanent-only doctors. This difference can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, depending on how much work you put in. 

Other Financial Benefits of Working Locum Tenens 

Besides higher salaries, locum tenens jobs also come with other significant financial benefits, including: 

  • Medical Malpractice Insurance

Most locum tenens agencies usually provide medical malpractice insurance coverage for their employees. The types and ranges of coverage offered differ depending on the agency and the physician's specialty. 

  • Travel & Housing

The locum tenens work model was initially developed to help send doctors to rural areas. Locum tenens physicians still travel a lot across state lines today, especially if the available jobs are far from home. Fortunately, many agencies cover travel and housing costs, including flights, rental cars, and hotels. 

  • Licensing & Other Paperwork

You need to file paperwork for each locum tenens assignment. Common paperwork includes licensing, privileging, and credentialing. Fortunately, most agencies process this paperwork in-house, saving locum tenens physicians some time and money. 

What Determines Locum Tenens Salary Rates? 

Your salary working as a locum tenens physician depends on various factors, including: 

  • Specialty's Demand & Skillset

Some specialties require more complex skillsets and are in greater demand than others. High-demand specialties and those requiring complex skills usually pay more. 

  • Location

Locum tenens physicians are in demand across the country, including rural and urban America. However, jobs available in urban areas with high living costs pay more than those in rural America. 

  • Type of Facility

Various types of healthcare facilities are grappling with physician shortages, from large hospitals to local clinics. Ideally, larger facilities usually pay more than smaller ones. 

  • Patient Load & Shifts

Locum tenens jobs usually pay hourly or per diem. Ideally, you make more if you work longer and handle more patients. 

Try Locum Tenens Today! 

You can make considerably more money by working locum tenens jobs part-time or full-time. You would also be making a positive impact by helping fill the physician shortage. Med X can help you get more from your healthcare career by helping you find suitable locum tenens jobs. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help.