What is Locum tenens practice?

You’ve heard of a substitute teacher? Meet your new Latin term of the day: Locum tenens, where a doctor, nurse, dentist, or other medical professional can be a “substitute” in a number of healthcare settings (clinics, research facilities, correctional institutions, mobile deployments, even insurance companies and law firms). Literally meaning “holding in place” (substituting), a medical professional can substitute in for a full-time position when a permanent employee is ill, on vacation, or even on jury duty. Or a facility may be starting a new program or augmenting staff in anticipation of a seasonal or emergency uptick in case volume. The first program was created in the 1970s, as a federal grant to the University of Utah to provide services to rural health clinics in the western United States. It proved a popular and successful solution to staffing needs and professional availabilities.
Many medical professionals choose locum tenens work for the flexibility—as free agents (independent contractors), they can choose whether or not to accept an assignment, either particular shifts or an entire facility. Professionals choosing locum work may also be experimenting with new technologies, fields, techniques, populations, or locations. Or winding down from a full-time practice to semi-retired.

  • Would you like to “temp” for an employer before actually getting hired?
  • Not sure if working with children is for you?
  • Wondering if you’d like to live on the “other” coast?

Locum tenens work may cross state lines, and sometimes borders. As a medical professional, licenses, credentials, and privileges must be in order. And discipline in one location can cascade to others. (And don’t forget about taxes – file in each state in which work was performed.)
Agencies have sprung up to facilitate this work nationally, as short-term emergencies or longer-term placements have become more common. Some placements can result in full-time offers of work, just like other recruiting or temporary work agencies. Agencies contract with both the professional and the facility, and may receive a commission from both parties. They may also provide the administrative structure (including malpractice insurance) to make this a viable alternative.
Is California part of the IMLC?
The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact was created in 2013 as a new, voluntary road to licensure for qualified physicians who wish to practice in multiple states – currently 24 states and 1 territory (with 31 Medical and Osteopathic Boards in those areas). Each state may choose to join or not join the Compact, which has no federal affiliation. The Compact furthers the ability of states to share investigative and disciplinary information, and thus allow for practice with public protection in place.
A licensed physician applies in their home state or “state of principal license” (SPL). The SPL or home state conducts a new background check (new fingerprinting) for multi-state practice. A non-refundable application fee of $700 applies plus license fees for each state of desired practice (ranging from $75 to $600 per individual state). Letters of Qualification began being issued in April 2017.
California has passed the IMLC but has not fully implemented it yet.
To learn more about the IMLC or see a list of states who have joined, go to https://imlcc.org.