Starting Your Locum Tenens Career

So you’re ready to take the plunge! Now, learn how to best present your life’s value-equation-to-date in print and verbally, overcome the licensing and credentialing challenges, and find out why you don’t have to quit your full-time physician job to try locum tenens.

In Part 4 of Locumpedia’s No-BS Guide to Locum Tenens we’ll cover:

Let’s start by saying that because a locum tenens physician or clinician must meet the same standards as any of his/her peers, finding a locum tenens job really doesn’t differ that much from finding a “permanent,” full-time physician job.

Locum tenens physicians (and advanced practice clinicians) go through background, licensing, credentialing and reference checks over and over — which, essentially, requires them to be even more thorough and transparent than the clinicians whose jobs they would cover.

Let’s start by saying that because a locum tenens physician must meet the same standards as any of his/her peers, finding a locum tenens job really doesn’t differ that much from finding a “permanent,” full-time physician job.

So, locum tenens clinicians must be uber-qualified and well-organized to pass muster with reputable locum tenens staffing firms or with licensed healthcare employers. To try locum tenens — or to become a career locum tenens physician/clinician — you must have your act together and be able to prove it.

Also, don’t expect you’re going to talk to an agency or healthcare facility recruiter one week and start the assignment the next. In The Locum Tenens Guy’s Guide to Locum Tenens, Vladimir Dzhashi, MD, advises you to ‘contact agencies or hospitals you want to work with at least 4 months before your planned start date to secure the job and finalize credentialing.’

HOWEVER, before you make a list of agencies to call immediately, you need to create a “CV” (curriculum vitae) or a resume and gather copies of all licenses and certificates that validate what’s on your CV/resume.

Section 1: CV or Resume — What’s the Difference?

As we mentioned in Part 3 of our guide, pretty much every job searcher knows he/she needs a resume or a CV. There’s an ASTOUNDING number of websites, or sections of websites, designed to walk you through the process of creating one, the other or both. So, what’s the difference between a CV and a resume?

The American Medical Association (AMA) distinguishes between the two as follows: A curriculum vitae (CV) is a document used by professionals in the fields of academia, medicine, teaching, and research. The CV is an overview of accomplishments relevant to the academic realm. It should be updated frequently to include new information and new accomplishments.

There are notable differences between a CV and a résumé and these include:

  • List your education first on a CV.
  • A CV rarely lists an objective or has a long narrative profile. If you would like to explain why you are an ideal candidate for this position, include this as part of your cover letter.
  • Name-dropping is more common in a CV than in a résumé. For example, if you performed research under a certain professor, you would include his or her name and title.
  • Unlike a résumé, a CV can run for 3 or more pages; however, the length of a CV alone is not what makes it successful. You should present the most relevant information in a concise, understated manner and avoid being self-congratulatory.
  • A CV should be neatly organized with clear headings and distinct conceptual divisions. Experience may be divided between headings such as “Teaching” or “Research;” education may be divided between “Degrees” and “Advanced Training” or similar.
  • Bullet points are commonly used in a résumé, but less common in a CV.”

The differences between a resume and a CV include the document’s length, contents, and purpose. You should also consider which region of the world you’re applying in and your career path when deciding which is more appropriate to use.

“Most notably, in the US a resume should be a concise and curated collection of your professional experience, skills and qualifications that are strictly relevant to the job you’re applying for. In contrast, a CV presents an in-depth history of your professional and academic credentials and accomplishments.”

In the US, a resume is concise and should be a collection of your professional experience, skills, and qualifications. These are relevant to the job you’re applying for. A CV provides an in-depth history of your professional and academic credentials and accomplishments. Some of their main differences include the following:

  • Length
    Tailored to a specific role, resumes are one to two pages. A CV can be longer, more detailed, and include descriptions of coursework and research you’ve conducted.
  • Experience/Career Type
    CVs are mostly used to apply for academic roles or programs, grants, fellowships, and research or teaching positions. A resume is used for jobs. These are jobs in the public or private sector.
  • Geographic Location
    Indeed suggests that in the UK, New Zealand, and parts of Europe, employers use the term “CV” to describe both types of documents and don’t use the term “resume” at all. In the US, a resume and a CV are two distinctly different types of documents.

Section 2: What Defines a Stellar CV

For readers at the front of the job-seekers class, reviewing our tips for creating a resume might just put you to sleep — and maybe even prevent you from reading the second half of our ‘No-BS Guide.’ You have our permission to scroll on through this material.

Let the rest of the class be forewarned: we’re about to quote “freelance healthcare writers” whose work ‘should not be construed as coming from, or representing the views of, the New England Journal of Medicine or the Massachusetts Medical Society.’ (However, we found the material, “produced by freelance healthcare writers as an advertising service of the publishing division of the Massachusetts Medical Society,” here — and we think it’s pretty good advice.)

The subhead for an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine’s online Career Center summarizes the CV-writing task effectively: “Simple format, brevity and absolute accuracy — and avoiding including extraneous details — are musts.”

Complete, Simple, Succinct

The New England Journal of Medicine’s online Career Center summarizes the CV-writing task effectively: “Simple format, brevity and absolute accuracy” that avoids using extraneous details.

Physician residents and fellows who start writing their CVs usually approach the task expecting it to be straightforward. The CV is a vehicle physicians use to let the world know where they’ve been and what they’ve done–in a document that’s about three pages.

Young physicians, especially those about to launch a job search, are quick to sweat how to create a CV that will help them stand out in a crowd from everyone else.

Recruiters and hiring physicians tend to appreciate a bit of meticulousness. They see too many CVs in which candidates fail to proof, polish, or accurately convey important accomplishments.

Everything on your work calendar should be on your CV, and there should be a brief description and timeline of those assignments. Applicants can tend to leave out important details like committee work, quality-improvement-initiative involvement, medical student teaching, or mentoring.

While residents usually include their research work, they tend to omit “quasi-extracurricular activities,” which demonstrate their willingness to go above and beyond what’s required.

Format: KISS

Polishing, proofing and producing a CV that makes the cut doesn’t conflict with ‘keep(ing) it simple, stupid (KISS).’

A CV should be written with a simple sans serif font and an easily readable font size — at least 11 or 12 points. Physicians should stick to a single font and size. It’s not an art contest, so there’s no reason to stray too far from the minimum of what’s expected.

A busy CV can even raise suspicion the candidate is trying to hide performance issues or other problems. Applicants should use decent-quality paper stock when preparing hard copies of their CVs to hand out at conferences or job fairs.

“Most medical training programs can recommend CV templates for physicians seeking structural guidance.”

Content: Honest and Tight

Most medical training programs can recommend CV templates for physicians seeking structural guidance. For those seeking an initial practice opportunity, you should include the following content and ordering of information:

  • Name and contact information
  • Education — undergraduate through internships, residencies, and fellowships — including specific clinical roles and any leadership roles
  • Licensure (status of applications planned or underway, if any)
  • Board certification or status
  • Professional experience (medicine-related only), including procedure and patient volumes as applicable to the specialty, along with administrative roles or duties
  • Activities and committee memberships, including roles and brief descriptions of associated accomplishments
  • Honors, awards, and professional affiliations
  • Publications and presentations

Although a CV generally contains more information than a standard resume, the key to success in a CV is brevity.

And here’s an alternative, slightly re-ordered list of CV content:

  • Education (school name, school location, degree earned, graduation dates)
  • Academic Honors/Activities/Leadership Positions
  • Internships/Clinics/Residencies/Fellowships (employer name, employer location, specialty area, dates)
  • Practice Experience (name of practice/hospital, location, title, type of practice, brief description)
  • Specialty Area
  • Publications
  • Presentations
  • Professional Memberships
  • Licensure/Board Certification
    Other Work Experience (employer name, employer location, title, dates of employment, brief job description)
  • Professional Awards/Honors
  • Language Skills

Also, foreign medical graduates should list their visa or citizenship status. Being forthcoming shows a potential employer that you are honest and, if necessary, will make the visa process smooth for them.

Dated entries should be reverse-chronologically listed (from present to past) in a month/year format. Physicians should be prepared to explain any gap of more than three months in a cover letter and should never attempt to cover up a gap.

In a physician’s CV, it’s possible to tailor content (like opening statements, hobbies or personal interests) and cover letters to a desired employer’s expectations.

Keep the standard order of information, but position any distinguishing details like special awards or recognitions on the first page. The following information should be included under most circumstances:

  • Birthdates, Social Security numbers, and any other official identification number.
  • Marital status.
  • References. (Including references before they’ve been requested can make it look like you’re trying too hard.)
  • Extensive publication details — stick to title, journal name, publication date and author name(s).
  • Conference attendance, unless you spoke at the event.

Sweat the Details

The CV should be crisp, clearly written, succinct, and without grammatical errors.

Suggestions for ensuring your CV makes the screener’s cut include:

  • Proof, proof, proof — and, if possible, have someone else review your CV before submitting it. When applying for a posted position, be sure your CV and, especially your cover letter, clearly relate to the desired position.
  • Pay attention to seemingly minor formatting details that, if not handled properly, could frustrate potential readers who review scores of CVs as part of their job,” Darves writes. For example, a footer including a page number and the physician’s name should appear on each page.
  • Think of the receiver when naming your CV file: hiring managers suggest file names with the physician’s last name, then first name (and maybe the submission date).
  • Save your CV in PDF format. While not ‘bullet-proof,’ it’s a deterrent to someone’s altering your document along the way.

Pass the 6-Second Test

A hiring manager will typically sort through hundreds of CVs for each position, which is overwhelming, to say the least. The average read time per resume for a hiring manager is about 6 seconds. Make sure and take the necessary steps to make sure a CV stands out and doesn’t immediately get trashed because it’s missing important details.

A hiring manager will typically sort through hundreds of CVs for each position, which is overwhelming, to say the least. The average read time per resume for a hiring manager is about 6 seconds. offers a short checklist for preparing an eye-catching CV — presumably one that passes the 6-second test:

  • Make the first page of your CV the essentials at a glance.
  • List your permanent and locum tenens employment history.
  • List the month/year of all your locum tenens jobs.
  • Keep the information about your licenses current.
  • List areas of specialization.
  • Save the information about research, publishing and poster presentations until the end.
  • Spell-check!

The Locum Tenens Guy’s Guide to Locum Tenens offers a bit more insight into listing any locum tenens experience on your resume: You can list either the agencies you work with or the hospitals/facilities to which those agencies have sent you.

Narrow down the number of hospitals or agencies you’ve worked with to about two or three and include those on the CV. If you are completing credentialing or licensing paperwork, you’ll have to list EVERY hospital/facility where you’ve ever worked.

Find a model CV from the ACP (American College of Physicians) here. For a list of what should be included in a CV and other AMA tips, click here. If you’re a medical resident preparing to enter the job market, find what news writer Brendan Murphy calls “CV-Writing 101” advice here.

If you’re still with us after all that tedious CV/resume ‘how-to’ business, NOW we’re ready to begin your pursuit of a locum tenens job — or any type of physician job, if we’re honest — in earnest.

Section 3: Will I Need to Interview for Locum Tenens Jobs?

A) The Facilitator

If you’re going the agency route, first comes the ‘get-to-know-you’ interview with a locum tenens agency recruiter — one with a firm you’ve researched enough to know you’d be comfortable working with.

It’s likely a solid recruiter will have lots of questions on topics like your background, skills and experience; what interests you about locum tenens work or about a particular position; how much you know about the locum tenens industry and your comfort level with it, etc.

Recruiters help identify potential assignments so the provider can narrow down their options to determine which opportunity may be the right fit. It’s the recruiter’s job to then make sure the agency has all the necessary information to make a decision about the open position. The “necessary information” includes things like compensation packages, job expectations, and any other pertinent information.

Recruiters help identify potential assignments so the provider can narrow down their options to determine which opportunity may be the right fit. It’s the recruiter’s job to then make sure the agency has all the necessary information to make a decision about the open position.

Carve out time and a quiet location for the interview with the recruiter, whether that be over the phone or a video call. While it may sound obvious, it bears repeating: Pay attention and don’t multitask during the interview.

So don’t take the locum tenens agency recruiter’s (or the client’s) interview call in the cafeteria line, in-between patient consultations, or while you’re driving, okay?

Do Your Homework

FOCUS, yes. But also remember the locum tenens proposition is a two-way street. It’s just as much an assessment opportunity for you as it is for the interviewer. In either case, you need to think ahead just a bit.

Vista Staffing Solutions compares working through a staffing agency with having a partner by your side every step of the way. To ensure you identify a firm that will facilitate your proceeding smoothly through the potential roadblocks ahead, the Utah-based firm offers three qualifying questions:

  1. Does Your Staffing Agency Have an In-House Licensing Team? Can they coordinate primary-source credential verification — including licenses, privileges, education/training, certifications, professional liability insurance coverage and more? Will they be there if you run into any issues?
  2. Does Your Staffing Agency Cover the Costs of Licensing and Credentialing? Well-established agencies (like Vista) will cover most of the costs of licensing and credentialing for any assignment worked through said agency.
  3. Does Your Staffing Agency Have Experience and Established Relationships? Look for an agency with strong state-medical-board relationships and credentialing team members who understand, and keep up-to-date with, the application-review process. Your agency team should coordinate with you, state medical boards and healthcare employers to deliver accurate paperwork and timely documentation.
Processes differ slightly from one agency to another, but once your agency recruiter has a pretty good sense of who you are and what you want from locum tenens, it’s time for the recruiter to identify the positions and places where the assistance you can provide are needed.
Then they’ll submit your CV and a cover sheet highlighting your accomplishments and availability (aka, “marketing you”) to those facilities in what’s called a ‘presentation.’ You commit to working at the first facility that accepts you for the position, and you should hear back within six business days (although some larger facilities can take up to two weeks to respond).
If you’re confirmed for the assignment, your recruiter will go over all the details and help you begin the licensing and credentialing process. If you don’t get the job, your recruiter will share the client’s feedback with you (if provided) and move on to the next opportunity.

B) The Gatekeeper

Often an interview with a clinical manager at a hiring facility happens before or while licensing and credentialing get underway. The locum tenens interview is each provider’s chance to sell themselves to the hiring facility or practice. A successful candidate has to make a good first impression.

Interviews can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, and then there could be a follow-up with the medical director or a specialty lead. This is their opportunity to get to know the provider and learn a bit more about the provider’s bedside manner and adaptability.

For more interview insight, check out 5 Interview Questions Facilities Should Ask Every Locum (courtesy of Barton Associates). For a comprehensive interview-prep article that includes topics interviewing locum tenens candidates should be prepared to talk about, visit’s Four Steps to a Stellar Interview Performance.

For some big-picture and behavioral Physician Interview Questions and Answers (geared more toward interviewing for a permanent/full-time physician job, but solid advice nonetheless), go to CompHealth’s blog here.

Ask as Well as Answer

The phone interview is the opportunity for each provider to also interview the client to make sure the potential locum tenens assignment is going to be a good fit. Be engaged and listen to the client to see if anything has changed since the time locum tenens coverage was first requested. Take note of any concerns, and then let the recruiter know what those concerns are.

Ask the facility or practice questions like, “Why is your facility experiencing a staffing gap?” That might not be the best question to start the interview off, but it is an important one.

If your interviewer doesn’t lead with it, ask them to tell you about the facility, the community, and the patient population — and whether anything about them makes the clinical situation unique.  Ask about expectations, roles, and responsibilities.

Interviewers like to ask candidates why they chose to work locums in the first place, so be prepared with a response–that goes both ways, though. Ask them why they chose to hire locum tenens, too.

Ask the facility or practice questions like, “Why is your facility experiencing a staffing gap?”

That might not be the best question to start the interview off, but it is an important one. Of course, these days just about every facility in the healthcare industry is experiencing some sort of staffing shortage. There is, however, a difference between a physician going on vacation vs. a leave of absence. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Also, ask about the client’s electronic health/medical records solution and how happy clinical staff is using it. Providers should attempt to learn the system they use, and this question will help you understand what challenges you might expect.

Now that you have a pretty good idea of what and how to prepare for a locum tenens client interview, AMN Healthcare offers these two excellent pieces of client-interview-ending advice:

  1. Candidates need to reconfirm the assignment start date, the schedule and responsibilities. Most interviews are with clinical professionals and not HR professionals, so all parties need to be on the same page.
  2. If a candidate likes what they hear, it’s OK to go ahead and ask for the job, and about the next steps in the process. This doesn’t guarantee anything, of course. That initial interview is just a chance for the clinician to assess whether the assignment is a good fit.

Section 4: The True Test: Licensing and Credentialing

So now let’s assume that, after you’ve interviewed, the practice or facility ‘likes you’ for the assignment. Smooth sailing ahead all the way, right? Uh-hmm, not so fast.

The locum tenens staffing company typically covers malpractice insurance. This is because there is such a rigorous credentialing process–this is how agencies make sure you’re in good standing, they can confirm your skills and your ability to perform procedures.

The agency says the credentialing process typically takes about 30 days. If the assignment needs to start sooner, then the provider will need to step in to do what’s needed to move the process along.

In case your feet feel a bit chilly about now, remember the awesome responsibility you took on when you decided to become a doctor (or an advanced practice healthcare provider) and know the vetting process for locum tenens practice is no more rigorous than the one to become a “permanent” employee at the healthcare facility or medical practice in question.

Once you’ve completed the application, your credentials are good for two years. After that, you’ll simply need to update your work history and any of the information that might have changed in the timeframe.

Nevertheless, we realize you might need a bit more assurance about the licensing and credentialing challenge to becoming a locum tenens physician or advanced practice clinician, so keep reading.

Follow the Guides

Vista Staffing Solutions’ list of licensing and credentialing tips for clinicians begins with “carving out time to get (and stay) organized.”

Every state has a unique licensure process, and credentialing requirements vary from site to site. However, you can give yourself a tremendous head start and save time with every assignment by committing to regular organizational housekeeping; including,

  • Keeping your CV and some critical documents updated. (Click here for a list of standard documents requested during the licensing and credentialing processes, as well as what to include in your CV.)
  • Having complete contact information (personal phone number, email, home address, etc.) for professional references who are prepared to respond.
  • Being up-to-date on your vaccinations and able to provide documentation.
  • Giving yourself plenty of time to achieve licensure.
  • Paying attention to licensing/credentialing application deadlines and meeting any deadlines given throughout the process.
  • Ensuring all of your documents are available for digital sharing
  • Keeping an eye on your email, voicemail, and texts for communication and responding as quickly as possible. This will keep the processes moving as efficiently as possible.

If you’re just starting to consider trying locum tenens, below is an overview of locum tenens licensing and credentialing from a seasoned healthcare writer, courtesy of Weatherby Healthcare’s Locum Tenens Tips Blog.

Locum tenens is an effective strategy for healthcare facilities. Locums providers help fill staffing voids. But healthcare systems need assurance candidates are well-qualified. Physicians, physician assistants (PAs), and nurse practitioners (NPs) have to go through a thorough credentialing process before being hired. But what does that process entail?

Weatherby Healthcare details 10 must-know facts about credentialing locum tenens professionals should know.

  1. Primary Source Verification
    Once you complete the application online the agency then has to confirm your professional identity and qualifications. Credentialing teams reach out to previous employers, and to any hospitals where you hold privileges, to verify your privileges and documentation.
  2. Speaking of documentation… Here’s what all of that includes:
    • Proof of training, including residency and fellowship
    • Medical school diploma
    • Board certifications
    • DEA certification
    • Life support certifications, such as advanced cardiac life support (ACLS)
    • Medical licenses
    • Official change-of-name documentation if applicable
    • Scan, email, fax or mail pictures of these documents to the credentialing team. (Hard copies aren’t usually needed.)
  3. Foreign Status
    Submit  Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) certification, as well as proof of permanent resident status or H-1B visa.
  4. Professional References
  5. External Credentialing
    Once the internal credentialing team confirms your data, your agency credentialing is finalized and remains valid for two years. However, you will have to go through a separate credentialing process for each assignment at each new hospital.
  6. Medical Tests
    Hospitals mandate clinicians have current vaccinations for Hepatitis B; Measles, mumps, and rubella; Varicella; Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis; and Meningococcal disease. They also require a negative tuberculosis test result within the past year
  7. Medical Specialties
  8. “Employment” Requirements for Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners
  9. Full Disclosure
    Official change-of-name documentation if applicable Report all licensure sanctions or malpractice claims in detail. Also, make sure applications match your CV, because the credentialing teams have to investigate any discrepancies, even two-month differences. The process becomes much easier when you provide accurate information.
  10. Clear, Timely, Communication

For more about credentialing and licensing, and how a locum tenens agency like Weatherby Healthcare can help you, view the videoHow to Find a Locum Tenens Assignment.”

Okay, guessing you now understand locum tenens licensing and credentialing generally, let’s kick it up a notch: We doubt we could write a section of our No-BS Guide on locum tenens licensing with any more meat and less BS than Dr. Dzhashi’s Locum Tenens Licensing: A Complete Guide for Docs Who Can’t Stand It! So we’re not going to try.

His is a no-holds-barred guide from someone who’s been practicing medicine full-time on a locum tenens or per diem basis. So instead, we’re going to cover the riveting world of the locum tenens contract.

Section 5: Do I Need to Quit my Full-Time Job to Try Locum Tenens? (AKA “Locum Tenens on the Side, Please”)


Okay, seriously, “If you’re considering adding part-time hours and would rather not commit to a new full-time position, locum tenens is for you,” according to Core Medical Group.

“Locum tenens physicians can quickly earn supplemental pay for filling physician shortages at other facilities, and can do so without any of the politics often associated with a full-time practice.”

Locum tenens physicians can quickly earn supplemental pay for filling physician shortages at other facilities, and can do so without any of the politics often associated with a full-time practice.”

Moreover, in its blog post from 8/1/2018, CompHealth shares, “Hospitalist Dr. John Thieszen started supplementing his income by working locum tenens while he was a full-time physician for the U.S. Air Force. He is now an independent contractor and continues working locum tenens with a full-time job. He describes his planning process: ‘It actually works out fantastic. As long as I can get my schedule planned out far enough in advance — three or four months in advance — then whatever time I have left, I can give to locums.’

“Instead of complicating his life, Dr. Thieszen asserts that working locums has improved his overall work/life balance. ‘Yeah, there’s extra planning that goes in, and you have to be state-credentialed or -licensed in different places, but as a whole, you also avoid a lot of the headaches that most physicians have to deal with,’ he explains. ‘When I’m at the job location, I don’t have to be doing lots of the regular hassle. It definitely contributes to a better work/life balance for me.’ ”

If there’s a will, there’s a way, as ‘they say,’ right? So, if you try locum tenens without resigning your full-time job (the one paying the bills), you’ve just moved a step closer to financial independence. CONGRATULATIONS!