Part 3: What’s the Scoop on Locum Tenens Staffing Agencies?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what “locum tenens” is, how it works and what kinds of physicians practice this way, let’s take a look at healthcare staffing agencies and the pros and cons of finding locum tenens jobs with and without them.

In Part 3 of Locumpedia’s No-BS Guide to Locum Tenens we’ll cover:

Section 1: Why Should I Use a Locum Tenens Agency?

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Blogging doctors writing about locum tenens seem to agree that, if you’re like most physicians interested in trying locum tenens, you should work through a locum tenens staffing firm — at least to start.

“The advantage of working through an agency is that they will provide the malpractice insurance so you do not need to procure it on your own,” Physician Tycoon Carroll says. “The agency will negotiate pay directly with the hospital or office on your behalf. An agency will also book all your travel arrangements.”

Noting that docs can certainly ‘go it alone,’ Carroll adds, “You may be able to negotiate higher pay without using an agency.”

“The advantage of working through an agency is they will provide the malpractice insurance…negotiate pay directly with the hospital or office on your behalf…[and] also book all your travel arrangements.”

 –“Physician Tycoon” Catherine Carroll, MD

However, as Interim Physicians CEO Tim Hand notes, “Good agencies should have an assignment for you where you want to go, when you want to go, at a fair rate.” The agency charges the facility what may seem like a lot for its services but, in addition to sourcing the assignment, they’re providing clinicians’ malpractice coverage and running staff 24/7 with a credentialing and travel team at your disposal.

“They pay salespeople to find the provider’s next assignment and recruiters to find new physicians, which carries overhead. Agencies are like a utility that’s always on.”

Especially when you start working locum tenens and thinking about trying it without an agency, some of those salespeople most likely would ask you whether you want a career in telemarketing or in practicing medicine. (Just sayin.’)

Agency Ed

While some locum tenens agencies assign one person to represent both client facility and clinician in the locums equation, most larger healthcare staffing firms employ two people with differing skill sets to assist each “customer”: a marketer, or salesperson, to represent the client’s needs and a recruiter to find the right physician fit.

Among those employing (pardon the pun) the latter agency model are CompHealth, Interim Physicians and LocumTenens.com. Describing the ideal situation in its online marketing, CompHealth (the largest locums agency) assures, “Your personal recruiter will get to know you, your career and lifestyle goals, and then work to ensure you get top pay in a job that’s just right for you.

“Additionally, our recruiters stay connected throughout the duration of your assignment. Whether it’s help covering a few shifts in your hometown or a long-term job across the country, CompHealth recruiters provide support from the first call to your last day. And beyond.”

Strong sales pitch, no doubt.

Nevertheless, in many cases the reality is the proverbial ‘cut to the chase.’ A recruiter under pressure will call you up and compress that whole “getting-to-know-you” routine into one desperate phone conversation.

Interim’s Hand points out that whether or not the stars align for a given assignment, most recruiters — even most of those who reach you via “cold call” — are there to listen to your concerns; make any adjustments necessary (to the extent they’re allowed); and help you succeed, no matter what the situation.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make the most of the assignment. The facility/practice isn’t looking for someone to change how they practice – they want someone who fits in with their staff and cares for their patients.

And then there’s the “top pay” and the “just-right-for-you” assignment. Realistically, that’s all part of the negotiation before a contract is signed. Most agencies seek to build relationships with both clients and clinicians, so the best agency reps try to work out a “win” for all three parties involved. (Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, folks.)

Most agencies seek to build relationships with both clients and clinicians, so the best agency reps try to work out a “win” for all three parties involved.

Also among the top-tier locum tenens staffing agencies, LocumTenens.com offers you some advice for working with a recruiter:

  •  “Try to establish a relationship with at least one or two agencies.
  • Create a rapport with your recruiter. Let them know your likes and dislikes.
  • Get your paperwork in order.
  • Try to keep at least five active licenses. Let your agency help you get more.
  • Retain references for at least six months to a year. Consider asking people to be references while you’re on a locum tenens assignment.
  • Get confirmations of which agencies presented you, and keep copies of their ‘authorizations to present.’
  • Keep a copy of your Certificate of Insurance (COI) for malpractice coverage.”

Section 2: How Do I Choose a Locum Tenens Firm?

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Okay, first you must know that if you even think about becoming a locum tenens physician, the agencies will be ‘on your donkey,’ to quote late-1970s CB (citizen band) radio lingo. (Probably ancient history to you, but it was “a thing.” Google it.)

In fact, you might have to, at minimum, mute your phone or, at worst, change your phone number. HOWEVER , at least at this moment in time, you can block callers whose phone numbers you don’t recognize. Also, ‘text-messengers’ are required to notify you of your right to reply “STOP” and prevent future texts. (Refer back to Section 2 on locum tenens’ disadvantages  and PoF Dahleen’s observation, “It’s no wonder they don’t stop e-mailing, calling, and even texting. Landing one doc for an assignment of several months’ duration can be worth tens of thousands of dollars to the agency.”)

Now that we got that straight, let’s talk about things you should consider in choosing a locum tenens agency.

In today’s US healthcare marketplace there are more than 100 companies providing temporary-physician or advanced-practitioner staffing services for hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities. [This was pre-pandemic, based on the member directory for the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations
(NALTO ®) which, as of this writing, lists 81 member companies.]

Most established locum tenens companies maintain high standards and do a good job for the healthcare industry. So, how do you sort them all out?

Here’s NALTO®’s guidance:

“When choosing a staffing company, physicians and clients should look for similar qualities,” according to the association’s website.

“NALTO® company members represent the majority of locum tenens industry revenue. [Members] strive to maintain high standards of service throughout the industry. You have the right to expect quality service from your locum tenens representatives. To help you evaluate different firms and choose one you feel will best represent you, here are some guidelines to follow:

1. “Does the company belong to NALTO®? All members are held to an ethical code so you can be sure [most will] follow high standards of service.”

2. “Does the company provide malpractice insurance for the physicians they place? Are they concerned with whether the client has coverage?”

Writing for MedPage Today, former Weatherby Healthcare President Bill Heller suggests, “Discuss whether the policy is comprehensive, if charges are associated, and if it covers any incident that may occur while you work for them, even after the assignment ends.”

3. “What is the company’s payroll history? Do they have the financial resources to pay their physicians regularly?”

Since most locum tenens agencies are privately owned, you’ll probably have to conduct an online search: check out the website of each company you’re considering, search for its social media profiles and activity (especially on LinkedIn), review any news coverage available, etc. Ask industry contacts what they’ve heard about the company — and, of course, talk to a recruiter about the types and locations of assignments available in your specialty.

4. “Is your recruitment representative accessible and available to answer your questions and help you through the locum tenens process?”

Heller suggests making sure the agency understands the intricacies of your specialty. Also, “The more reputable staffing agencies have teams dedicated to helping providers obtain state licenses and hospital privileges before taking locum tenens assignments.”

Because they build relationships with state boards and medical facilities across the country, they can help you navigate the preliminary processes much more quickly.

5. “Does the company offer services to ensure that all details are taken care of when the physician arrives to work (ie, licensure, credentialing, hospital privileges, proper travel and housing arrangements)?”

Heller encourages asking about key services like contract negotiations, as well. “Not all agencies do it all,” he says. “Finding out too late they don’t do credentialing, or don’t have the connections to get it done in a timely manner, can have a serious impact on that placement.”

Most established locum tenens companies maintain high standards and do a good job for the healthcare industry.

On its blog, LocumLeaders offers five slightly different tips for identifying the right locum tenens agency or agencies to work with.

1. “Make sure the client pays–not the candidate.

“Recruiters are there to help you find a locums assignment, but that doesn’t mean you should pay for their services. Recruiters should always be paid by the party seeking a physician or advanced practitioner, and never by the candidate. If a recruiter asks you for any type of payment, it is time to look elsewhere,” LocumLeaders advises.

2. “Be discerning.

“When you talk to companies, ask how long they’ve been in business and who their clients are, request a list of their services and benefits, check how many locum jobs they have available, and evaluate their level of professionalism,” LocumLeaders suggests. “Find out if they have recruiters who specialize in your discipline. This isn’t a choice to be made randomly, as you’re counting on this company to help you with the very important task of finding your next job.

3. “Don’t spread yourself too thin.”

LocumLeaders says many physicians and advanced practitioners find one agency they like and stick with it, while others shop around. “Either scenario can work, but it’s a mistake to try and work with every recruiter out there. If your CV is too widely circulated, it can make you look too eager (or even desperate) for a job. It can also create confusion, because employers may not know whose candidate you really are. Recruiters also don’t want to work with a candidate if they think their resume has been ‘over-shopped.’ ”

4. “Be clear about what you need—not just what you want.

“Try to have a realistic vision of what you need in a locum tenens position. You may want a part-time job (with full-time pay) working for a hospital in Florida. What you may actually need, however, is an established referral base in an area with minimal competition,” LocumLeaders says. “Determine the type of position, pay and location you truly need, considering your personal requirements and those of any loved ones who may travel with you or stay home. This will allow you to better evaluate what each recruitment agency offers, and help a recruiter to accurately present you to employers matching those needs.

5. “Expect excellent communication and service. “During the time it takes you to identify an assignment, interview, negotiate and close, you should be in continual contact with your locum tenens recruiter,” LocumLeaders advises. “You can judge a recruiter’s commitment by the amount of time he or she spends providing you with key information and answering any questions you may have. You should also expect your recruiter and other agency staff to be available during the onboarding process, and throughout your assignment.

“A recruiter’s goal should be to create a mutually beneficial match between you (the candidate) and the employer. The best recruiters will want to build a relationship with you that can last through multiple assignments. There shouldn’t be any high-pressure sales tactics. Rather, you should expect a consistent effort to find the locum tenens assignment that best meets your current needs, and helps you work toward future career goals.”

Section 3: How Do I Find Locum Tenens Jobs Without an Agency?

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We want to provide a complete guide to locum tenens medical practice within these chapters, but let’s be honest. After you’ve successfully ‘“jumped through hoops” for more than a decade to complete your education and training — passing multiple exams and surviving many other trials to become a licensed, and (most likely) board-certified, physician — you probably don’t need step-by-step instructions on how to find a job.

You know you need a “CV” (curriculum vitae) and copies of all licenses and other documents that validate your credentials, right? And you’ve probably functioned in the medical-professional community long enough to realize you need to search beyond ‘generic’ job boards — like Indeed.com, CareerBuilder.com or Monster.com — for your ideal physician job, especially for a locum tenens physician job.

For example, Indeed claims to be “the #1 job site in the world (per comScore Total Visits, March 2020) , with over 250 million unique visitors every month (per Google Analytics, Unique Visitors, February 2020) .” However, when we searched “locum tenens” on the job board without identifying medical specialty, job title or location, we came up with 228 new locum tenens jobs.

In other words, there might be ‘five times more hires made through Indeed than any other job site,’ but you’re likely to find more locum tenens jobs on industry-specific and agency websites. Speaking of agencies, suffice it to say it’s not “a piece of cake” to do for yourself what they can do for you — especially on the client side — unless you have strong healthcare industry contacts and you’re well-organized.

Hospitalist Vlad Dzhashi, MD (The LocumTenensGuy) describes his search process like this: “After making multiple calls and sending a bunch of emails, I was able to get a per-diem contract with two local hospitals and one big hospitalist company (which probably took me 4-5 months).”

“After making multiple calls and sending a bunch of emails, I was able to get a per-diem contract with two local hospitals and one big hospitalist company (which probably took me 4-5 months).”

— “The Locum Tenens Guy,” Vlad Dzhashi, MD

This is why he suggests early in his September 15, 2017, post, “A staffing agency is probably the easiest way to work locum tenens. It’s also the best way to start.”

However, if you still prefer to ‘go it alone,’ here are several industry-specific job boards, most of which allow you to remain anonymous to agencies while searching for locum tenens jobs. Just be careful in registering with any of them — and consider setting up a virtual phone number through which you can screen any follow-up calls you receive.

Industry-Specific Job Boards

PracticeMatch

PracticeMatch has been “Trusted by Physician Job-Seekers for Over 30 Years” (way back in the BI era, or “Before Internet”).

“Based in St. Louis, Missouri, PracticeMatch is the industry leader in providing practicing physician and resident/fellow data and services to in-house physician staffing professionals and offers a continuum of services designed to provide a clear competitive hiring advantage to health organizations. It boasts “being the first to offer physician databases online and the first to fully integrate all recruitment-related services.”

Industry statistics highlighted on the website when we visited:

  • Total Interviewed Physicians: 396,482
  • Total Active Interviewed Job Seekers: 88,383
  • Candidate Matches (lasts 30 days): 344,643
PracticeLink

According to PracticeLink Director of Physician and Client Operations Tammy Hager, PracticeLink works with “more than 5,000 healthcare facilities representing more than 25,000 job opportunities nationwide.” While its network includes both in-house recruiters and agency recruiters, the job board allows you to narrow your job search to only those posted by in-house recruiters (or agency recruiters). Each month PracticeLink uploads more than 500 new “inDepth Interviews” by trained interviewers with active job candidates in which the latter share details about their training, practice preferences, family needs/history, hobbies, personal interests and more.

Here are the “latest stats” posted for PracticeLink when we checked it out:

  • Active Jobs: 28,025
  • Active Job Seekers: 52,856
  • Job Responses (Last 30 days): 22,003
  • New Jobs (Last 30 days): 4,406
LocumTenens.com

LocumTenens.com lays claim to being “the industry’s largest and most-visited job board” for physicians, PAs, NPs, CRNAs & psychologists. Stats highlighted on the job board include: 158 specialties served, more than 90,000 jobs available monthly, and 900+ jobs viewed daily.

“In addition to running a free, self-service job board, LocumTenens.com is a full-service physician, advanced practice and psychologist recruitment agency working in high-demand medical specialties,” with recruiters dedicated to only one medical specialty. Note: if you don’t want to be contacted by agency reps after using this job board, be sure to answer “no” to these two questions asked at registration:

  • Would you like to be contacted about opportunities in your specialty?
  • Would you like to allow healthcare facilities to contact you directly via email?
DocCafe.com

Like most other job boards, DocCafe.com allows job-seekers to search postings for free. When we checked out the site, it offered almost 9,600 physician/PA jobs posted (mostly by agencies, it appears) in the past 30 days among the more than 82,000 “total active jobs.” When we searched “locum tenens,” we found DocCafe.com offered 714 physician/PA jobs posted in the past 24 hours.

Possibly the most dynamic among the job boards for physicians and physician assistants, this site facilitates video interviewing ‘on demand,’ along with a built-in applicant tracking system (ATS) to help potential employers move candidates ‘through the internal pipeline’ — all for the cost of a subscription fee for the employer, of course.

PhysicianJobBoard.com

This board self-identifies as “the largest & best resource for locum tenens or permanent jobs for physicians, PAs, NPs & CRNAs.” The site boasts 7,000+ healthcare employers in its network, including well-established locum tenens recruiting firms like All Star Healthcare Solutions, Cross Country Locums, The Delta Companies, Interim Physicians, Jackson & Coker, Maxim Healthcare Group, The Medicus Firm and Physicians PRN.

LocumJobsOnline.com

This site “helps connect qualified, but hard-to-find candidates with locum tenens jobs posted by some of the top locum tenens agencies on its unique platform.” When we visited the site, it boasted almost 12,000 locum tenens jobs for MDs, DOs, PAs, CRNAs, NPs and other healthcare professionals in close to 60 specialty categories. Check out the job board’s brief “How to Navigate a Locum Tenens Job Board” video for an intro to locum tenens online job-searching.

Other Agency Job Boards

Many of the larger, more established locum tenens agencies offer their job postings online, as well. However, we’d suggest reviewing the registration and preference-setting options carefully if you’d prefer not to be contacted by agency recruiters. Once again, visiting our agency directory here on Locumpedia.com or the one at NALTO.org is a good place to find quality agencies

Here are a few examples to get you started.

CompHealth: jobs for physicians (354 when we visited), PAs/NPs/CRNAs (95), medical lab techs (100), occupational/physical/respiratory/speech therapists (460)

Cross Country Locums: 443 “healthcare opportunities” were posted here (including physician and advanced practice jobs) when we visited.

Hayes Locums: 127 locum tenens jobs available when we visited here.

MPLT Healthcare: several hundred locums, permanent and staff jobs posted here upon our visit.

StaffCare: 692 locum tenens jobs available for physicians, advanced practice providers (NPs, CRNAs, PAs)

Healthcare Media

JAMA Career Center: Publication and job board are geared to physicians. While there were a few jobs posted by agencies when we visited, most were posted by healthcare employers looking to hire directly.

Becker’s Hospital Review Career Center: Publication is geared to healthcare executives. Jobs posted are a mix of clinical, administrative/executive and academic.

Modern Healthcare Career Rx: Publication is geared to healthcare executives. Jobs posted are a mix of clinical, administrative/executive and academic.

Social Media

LinkedIn

Looks like it’s mostly locum tenens agencies posting the clinician jobs here, but there were more than 7,700 of them available when we just entered “locum tenens” with no job title, specialty or location preference. This is also a good place to learn about healthcare employers across the country. Search under “groups” and find more than 40 locum-tenens-related groups by job category, specialty or interest area — some including both clinicians and members of the recruiting firm community, along with a few for locum tenens opportunity postings.

Facebook

Use the platform’s search feature to find job, agency and clinician posts you might find helpful. Groups to check out include Locum Tenens Physicians Network with some 829 members, Jobs – Locum Tenens Physicians Network with 269 members, Physicians Only Locum Tenens Interest Group with 1,300 members, Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant Locums Travel Networking with 4,800 members, Locum CRNAs with 2,100 members, Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner (PA/NP) Locum Tenens with 2,000 members, NPs in Virtual Care and Telemedicine with 3,200 members, Nurse Practitioner Networking with 4,700 members.

Twitter:

Most locum tenens presence here is agencies and media outlets. Follow Andrew Tisser, DO, and check out the “Talk2MeDoc” podcast episode (56) he posted on February 17, 2021, “Living the Locums Life with Andrew Wilner, MD” It offers a first-hand account of how the board-certified internist, neurologist, and epilepsy specialist used locum tenens to achieve work/life balance as a physician and writer.

Physician Blogs

If you’re interested in locum tenens medical practice (which you must be if you’re reading this guide), you really need to explore TheLocumGuy.com. There you’ll find featured locum tenens job postings, along with lots of meaty insight into making ‘the locums life’ work for you.

For our purposes in this section of our ‘no-BS guide,’ you’ll want to read locum tenens hospitalist-blogger Vlad Dzhashi, MD’s post from September 15, 2017, “Finding best locum tenens companies: What I’ve learned after 5+ years of full-time locums work.” In it he compares finding gigs with and without agencies — and, it turns out, he himself does both.

In the blog post Dzhashi offers the pros and cons of “per-diem contracting,” which leaves the agency out of the equation. The article includes a step-by-step description of how he accomplished this and how you can use his experience to short-circuit the process for yourself. “In my opinion, this approach is a great fit for physicians with families or those wanting to minimize the travel,” he writes.

Even better, he’s willing to coach you through the process if you’re game. At this writing Dzhashi was offering a group coaching package for $350 (about half the cost of his one-on-one coaching). For more details, email him: vlad@thelocumguy.com.