Forum Focus – 2013 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends

2013_Temp_Physic_Staffing_Trends3Staff Care, a staffing firm specializing in matching temporary (i.e., locum tenens) physicians, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and dentists with health care organizations and groups nationwide, recently published results from its tenth Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends. The survey has been certified by the Joint Commission.

The report is divided into three parts. Part I is a survey of health care facility managers for hospitals, medical groups, community health centers, and government health facilities using locum tenens. Part II is a survey of physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who are currently working or have worked on a locum tenens basis. Part III looks at Staff Care’s own staffing assignments conducted in 2012.

Part 1

Of the 205 health care facility managers surveyed, key findings include:

  • Primary care physicians are in the greatest demand as locum tenens, followed by psychiatrists, hospitalists, and surgeons.
  • Most locum tenens physicians are used to fill in for physicians who have left.
  • At least 72% indicated their facilities had used locum tenens physicians sometime during the previous 12 months. As more hospitals and other health care facilities employ doctors, they are using locum tenens services as a stopgap during this transition.

Part II

Of the 981 physicians and advanced practitioners surveyed, key findings include:

  • Of those surveyed, 20% work in primary care (internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics), 17% in behavioral health (psychiatry, psychology), 17% in anesthesiology and 10% in surgery.
  • Over half of those surveyed (60%) are between the ages of 51-70 while 23% are under age 50.
  • Over 88% of locum tenens physicians have been in medical practice for 11 years or more.
  • 82% of physicians surveyed said they find working locum tenens to be as satisfying as or more satisfying than traditional, permanent practice.
  • Physicians ranked “freedom and flexibility” as the primary benefit of working locum tenens, followed by “no politics.” Drawbacks included being “away from home” and “uncertainty of assignment.”
  • Physicians ranked “location” as their number one consideration in selecting a temporary assignment, followed by “length of opportunity” and “pay.”
  • 49% of survey respondents began working as locum tenens in mid-career, 37% after retiring from permanent practice and 14% right after residency.
  • 90% of physicians said they are accepted by colleagues and 96% by patients while on temporary assignments.
  • 53% of physicians said they are only willing to travel regionally to a locum tenens assignment. The remaining 47%, however, said they would travel nationwide.
  • 61% of physicians indicated their ideal locum tenens assignment length is at least one month or more.

The demand for locum tenens NPs and PAs is also on the rise. The report says hospitals and medical groups are turning to locum tenens NPs and PAs for the same reason they are for locum tenens physicians – to maintain services and fill in until permanent replacements are found. In 2012, requests to Staff Care for locum tenens NPs and PAs accounted for 10% of all temporary days requested.

As health care reform is implemented and demand grows, access to care and quality will be at a premium. According to the report, this will only increase the need for locum tenens, especially for primary care, behavioral health, and surgical specialists.

A copy of the report can be downloaded by clicking here.