Locums CME #34 | More Docs Join the Locums Gold Rush, the Physician Associate Movement Gains Steam, Locum Tenens for Work-Life Balance & More

The Locums Gold Rush Continues

As our annual locum tenens industry outlook report confirms, now is an excellent time for physicians and APPs to get into locums. After growing by 39% in 2022 to 2023, an independent research firm says it expects a more modest increase of 7% in 2024. We asked six locum tenens agency leaders what they thought, and what they said will “un-“surprise you. 

Also, whether docs in Oregon like it or not, PAs in the Beaver State will now be referred to as “Physician Associates” instead of “Assistants.” Plus, more docs unionize, the latest on burnout, a 3% rise in physician salaries and much more in Locums CME 34!

In CME 34:

2024 Locum Tenens Industry Outlook: Experts Predict Continued Growth Amid Physician Shortages

Locumpedia’s 2024 Locum Tenens Industry Outlook report highlights a promising future for the locum tenens sector, projecting continued growth despite contractions in other healthcare staffing segments. 

Staffing Industry Analysts recently predicted a 7% increase in locum tenens industry revenue, following a 27% increase in 2022 and 12% in 2023. Industry leaders we surveyed, including Natasha Lee of Floyd Lee Locums and Drew Cihlar of Hayes Locums, anticipate growth between 8% and 10%, driven by physician shortages and increased demand for flexible staffing solutions.

Our report notes that locum tenens addresses critical issues like physician burnout and staffing shortages, especially in underserved areas. Cihlar expects more than 10% growth, citing increased healthcare facility acquisitions and a rising awareness of locum tenens benefits among providers. Kim Herrmann of Wapiti Medical Staffing predicts more modest growth, noting that some rural hospitals are cutting back on outsourced staffing to cut costs.

Technological advancements, particularly artificial intelligence, are expected to enhance recruitment efficiency and talent matching, according to industry experts like Matt Young of All Star Healthcare Solutions. AI tools could streamline repetitive tasks and improve relationship-building efforts within agencies. However, the report warns that regulatory changes threatening the independent contractor status of locum tenens providers could pose significant challenges to the industry.

Overall, the 2024 outlook remains positive, with locum tenens seen as a strategic solution for ensuring continuous patient care and addressing physician shortages. The industry’s adaptability and technological integration are key factors contributing to its sustained growth and resilience.

Read the full report.

Your Locums Prescription

Oregon Leads the Way with Official “Physician Associate” Title Change

Apr 16, 2024 | Axios

The State of Oregon officially changed the professional title of “physician assistants” to “physician associates,” becoming the first state to implement this controversial change. The new title took effect June 6, 2024, following the signing of House Bill 4010 by Governor Tina Kotek. The legislative move aims to more accurately represent the scope of practice and responsibilities of PAs, enhancing patient understanding of their role in healthcare.

The Oregon Society of Physician Associates (OSPA) has been a significant advocate for the title change, emphasizing that the new designation better reflects the contributions of PAs in the medical field. OSPA President Alisa Gifford stated that the title “physician associate” addresses common misconceptions about the profession and aligns more closely with their medical education and responsibilities. The title change is part of broader efforts to modernize the profession and could influence other states to consider similar updates.

The American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA) also supports the title change, noting that it does not affect the scope of practice or legal responsibilities of PAs. However, PAs practicing in states other than Oregon must continue using the title “physician assistant” unless their state enacts similar legislation.  

Locum Tenens Helps Healthcare Professionals Achieve Work-Life Balance

March 27, 2024 | All Star Healthcare Solutions

Locum tenens work can offer a more satisfying work-life balance for physicians, according to a recent blog post by All Star Healthcare Solutions. The article highlights the potential for locum tenens positions to provide more control over schedules, diverse work environments, and the opportunity to explore different regions and medical settings.

According to All Star, locum tenens positions can reduce burnout by allowing physicians to manage their workload more effectively allowing them to take time off between assignments, pursue further education, or spend more time with family. Additionally, locum tenens work offers a chance to earn higher compensation compared to direct-hire positions, which can be particularly attractive for clinicians looking to pay off student loans or save for retirement.

Physician Wellness Retreat

Keys to Mitigating Oncologist Burnout: Support Staff, Autonomy, Better Pay 

April 15, 2024 | Becker’s Hospital Review

Medscape’s Oncologist Burnout & Depression Report 2024 surveyed more than 9,200 physicians across 29 specialties between July and October 2023. The report, highlighted by Becker’s Hospital Review, revealed that 18% of oncologists are contemplating leaving the medical field due to severe burnout. 

The demanding nature of oncology, long working hours, emotional strain from patient care, and administrative burdens are primary stressors. The findings also indicate that a considerable number of oncologists experience symptoms of depression, further exacerbating their professional dissatisfaction. 

Healthcare organizations are urged to implement support systems and strategies to mitigate burnout, including reducing administrative tasks, offering mental health resources, and creating a more balanced work environment. By prioritizing the mental health of oncologists, the industry aims to retain these essential professionals and maintain high standards of patient care​.

AMA Urges Health Systems to Normalize Time Off to Combat Physician Burnout

April 9, 2024 | AMA

Physicians face unique challenges when taking time off due to their ongoing clinical responsibilities and the demands of managing electronic health record (EHR) inboxes. They often feel the need to stay connected even during vacations, a habit that ultimately leads to burnout. 

Research shows that physicians working more than 30 minutes a day while on vacation are more likely to burn out, whereas those taking more than three weeks of vacation annually experience lower burnout rates. 

According to Dr. Jill Jin, an internist and senior physician adviser for the AMA, health systems must develop strategies to allow physicians to take meaningful time off without the burden of logging into their EHR. They need to normalize time off, provide adequate coverage for clinical responsibilities and include paid time off in compensation models. 

She further states that leaders should model taking time off by not responding to work emails during vacations, and organizations should ensure coverage for both patient care and EHR responsibilities. Furthermore, compensation models should reflect realistic expectations, accounting for vacations and holidays, ensuring physicians can take guilt-free paid time off.

Doctor’s Notes

Surge in Medical Unionization Driven by Intense Workloads and Student Debt

April 15, 2024 | Axios

A new generation of doctors, burdened with heavy workloads and significant student debt, has generated a surge in unionization in the medical profession. The number of unionized medical residents has nearly doubled to over 32,000 in the past three years, driven by the high cost of living, staggering student loans, and a desire for better work-life balance. 

Established doctors are joining the movement, as seen in recent unionization efforts at Salem Hospital and Cedars Sinai. More than half of U.S. doctors now work for large health systems or medical groups, resulting in heavier workloads and less control over patient care. 

Union advocates argue improving doctors’ working conditions will ultimately benefit patient safety and care quality by allowing physicians more time and resources to devote to their patients.

Survey Reveals Growing Doctor Acceptance of Generative AI for Patient Care

April 15, 2024 | Axios

A recent Wolters Kluwer Health survey revealed that 40% of U.S. doctors are prepared to integrate generative AI into their patient interactions, reflecting a significant shift in attitude over the past year. The growing acceptance contrasts with patient concerns about AI in healthcare, particularly for diagnoses and treatments.

The survey, which included 100 physicians from large hospitals, also found that 80% of physicians believe generative AI will enhance patient interactions, and more than half expect it to save time by efficiently handling medical literature and patient data. Despite the optimism, physicians remain cautious, with 90% emphasizing the need for transparency in AI training data and oversight by healthcare professionals. 

The report also noted a lack of organizational guidelines on AI use, with more than a third of those surveyed claiming to be unaware of any existing protocols.

Physician Salaries Rise 3% in 2024; Inflation and Pay Disparities Persist

April 12, 2024 | Medscape

The 2024 Medscape Physician Compensation Report indicates that despite a 3% increase in average salaries, many physicians remain dissatisfied amid rapid inflation and Medicare reimbursement cuts. According to the report: 

  • Male physicians earn 29% more than their female counterparts
  • African American physicians, despite experiencing significant compensation growth, remain the lowest-paid group
  • Regional pay variations indicate that the “West North Central” states have the highest earnings, while the Mid-Atlantic states have the lowest
  • Orthopedics, plastic surgery, and cardiology offer the highest compensation, while infectious disease and pediatrics are among the lowest-paid specialties
  • 61% of doctors believe their profession is generally underpaid and 51% feel personally underpaid relative to their job responsibilities 

Addressing gender and racial disparities as well as economic influences, the report sheds light on the challenges and opportunities physicians encounter.

Sponsored Content

6 Advantages of Boutique Healthcare Staffing Firms versus Big-Box Agencies

April 23, 2024 | Covelo Direct

Boutique healthcare staffing firms offer personalized service and lower costs due to reduced overhead compared to larger “Big Box” agencies. These smaller firms are praised for their ethical approach to staffing, focusing on people over profits. In contrast, larger agencies are often criticized for higher costs and prioritizing financial gains, which can strain healthcare facilities. A recent article from Covelo Direct discusses the financial benefits of using boutique firms, advocating for their more humane and cost-effective solutions.

Moonlighting During Residency: A Guide for Aspiring Physicians

May 28, 2024 | OnCall Solutions

Moonlighting during residency offers additional income, clinical experience, and networking opportunities but requires careful balance with residency duties and personal well-being. In a recent article by OnCall Solutions, residents are advised to follow their program’s policies and ACGME regulations, considering both internal and external moonlighting options. While moonlighting can enhance skills and provide financial benefits, it also risks increased fatigue, burnout, and potential conflicts with residency responsibilities. Compensation varies, and residents need a full medical license and adequate malpractice insurance. Ultimately, maintaining a balance is crucial to avoid interference with primary responsibilities and personal health.

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