What is Locum Tenens?

Ever since I was a nurse, I have always wanted to do travel nursing. After I became a Nurse Practitioner, I started doing some research and realized travel nursing for Nurse Practitioner’s was called something else. “Locum Tenens” is a latin word for substitute. It applies to all travel work opportunities for Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, and Physicians. The reason there is a difference in terminology, is due to the level and length of service provided. For instance, RN travel assignments are typically a 13 week contract. Whereas locum tenens assignments can range from 1 day to 1 year.

As a locum tenens provider, you are assigned to a medical facility based on your specialty. So for instance, I am a Family Nurse Practitioner so I am usually placed in a primary care facility. The length of time needed to work is often negotiable. Some facilities will specify a timeline such as 6 months, or they may need someone to cover a vacation leave for a few days. Other times the timeframe is open to your preference or considered “ongoing”. The reason for this is because facilities may have just lost a provider, and while they search for a permanent provider, they would like you to fill in the gap for as long as you can.

The process of finding an assignment begins with establishing a connection with a locum tenens agency. These agencies match your skills and credentials with hospitals, clinics, urgent cares, or federal health centers. Between your assignment site and the agency, you will typically be provided benefits such as: paid housing, paid travel, malpractice insurance, and licensing reimbursement. Some may even offer sign-on bonuses or extension bonuses.

Some people wonder why a medical facility would pay for housing and travel when they could easily hire someone who lives in town. The answer to that is the healthcare provider and nursing shortage. A lot of the medical facilities are located in rural areas, in which it may take time to recruit permanent providers. Others needing coverage for maternity leave and vacation believe the benefit outweighs the cost.





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