Whether you’re picking up a few weekend and holiday shifts near home or working full-time as a traveling physician, locum tenens can be a lucrative career choice. However, hourly rates can also vary widely depending on a number of factors. Finding the right locum opportunity is a balancing act between location, work environment, and compensation, so it is important to determine what your priorities are and in what areas you’re willing to compromise so that you can communicate this to your recruiter.
Location is one of the most important determining factors when it comes to hourly rates for locum tenens physicians. As a general rule, more rural areas offer higher rates due to a greater demand for physicians. If an urban setting or proximity to airports is a priority for you, then you may have to compromise a bit on pay rates; however, the convenience may well be worth it if you can work just a few minutes from your home or an international airport. If you are willing to travel and work in remote locations, then you are likely to find the highest rates. With transportation and housing costs covered and licensing and travel plans taken care of by your locum tenens agency, traveling as a locum physician is surprisingly easy and is a great way to earn significantly more than you could in a permanent position.
Work environment also has an impact on rates, with busier practices usually offering more than slower ones. If you’re willing to work in hospitals with a high volume or with fewer physicians and/or mid-levels on staff, then you’re more likely to earn the highest rates. This can be a great way to test out a job with no long-term obligation and earn a large paycheck at the same time. If, on the other hand, working in a relaxed setting is important to you, then you may need to compromise on rates or be open to traveling to more remote areas. A low-stress environment may be the right choice for you if you’re just looking to pick up a few shifts during your time away from your full-time job.
Just like at any job, factors such as the type of facility, your specialty, and your work experience can also affect rates. The key thing to remember when working locum tenens, however, is that greater flexibility leads to higher pay. If you are willing to travel, work in busy environments, or pick up night or holiday shifts, you will earn more money. If you are looking for the most convenient and laid-back opportunities, you may have to compromise with lower rates, but keep in mind that you will be avoiding overhead costs and that travel, lodging, and malpractice are included.
When looking for the right balance between convenience, environment, and pay, an experienced staffing agent can help you navigate the industry and negotiate a contract that you’re happy with. Be sure to communicate your preferences to your recruiter so that s/he can match you with jobs that prioritize what’s most important to you. While some physicians choose to negotiate their own contracts rather than work with an agency, this often means that they will not receive free malpractice coverage, travel, and lodging, and they must spend valuable time on licensing and travel plans. Most physicians find the slight cut in pay worth it when they factor in the benefits of working with an agency.
For more information on the factors that affect locum tenens pay rates, you can also visit the NALTO website here.