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What are Locum Tenens Contracts?


Medical professionals are no strangers to contracts.  They’re everywhere in this field, really, so it’s probably not a surprise to hear that temporary-style employees at most hospitals or other, similar institutions, require a special sort of contract.  These are known as locum tenens contracts, for anyone unfamiliar.

In Latin, it means “hold the place,” which is why it’s used for the temporary positions.  Any professionals hired under them are typically there to keep a spot in the staff filled while a permanent solution is searched for.  After all, even when there is a hole in staffing, in a fast-paced environment like this, it’s important to still have someone on duty.  You can read about why that’s so important here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8372908/.  

Beyond that, though, there’s more to know from both sides of this sort of contract.  So, if you’d like to learn more about them, be sure to stick around.  Whether you’re the one hiring or the independent contractor yourself, it’s a good idea to get a better understanding of locum tenens.

What a Locum Tenens Position is

Starting off pretty simple, we can delve a bit deeper into what one of these independent contractor positions actually entails.  Perhaps the most important thing is that they’re still licensed to perform the job they’re hired for.  Whether that’s being licensed as a physician or to do whatever duty they’ve been assigned in the hospital setting, it’s not like it’s a random person with no expertise to fill the spot.

Most of the time, they exist to help give another physician a break.  During a medical leave or some other sort of time away, it’s easy to feel pressured to return as soon as possible.  However, having a contractor take care of those duties can help to relieve that as well as the stress on everyone else working.  So, if you’re a hiring manager or something along those lines, this is certainly something that you may want to keep in mind.

How it Works

Now, as far as how a contract for locum tenens works in practice, things do get a bit more complicated.  That’s why some additional resources have been provided, if you’d like to get a more in-depth coverage on them.  For now, though, there is plenty of ground to cover.

One clause to lookout for when signing a contract like this is the “noncompetition” one, which can have pretty big implications for the contractor following the end of the locum tenens.  They’re not a bad thing, of course, just something to think about on both sides of the metaphorical table.  

Primarily, clauses like this exist to ensure that the locum tenens doesn’t end up going to a direct competitor following the end of the agreement.  Sometimes it’ll include some details about them becoming a full time employee, but that isn’t always the case.  Just ensure that both parties read through everything proposed carefully before any signatures are given.

As far as payment goes, it’s relatively simple as well.  Most of the time, it’s based on hourly wages, but there are instances that it will be a daily rate as well.  The real calculations come from other factors, those being things like where they are working, the position they’re filling, and how important the job is in terms of urgency.

Reading posts like this one can shed some light on that last point there, in case there’s any confusion surrounding levels of urgency in a medical setting.  Some hospitals or institutions have different labels, of course, so it’ll depend on where you are going to work.  It doesn’t hurt to ask the hiring manager as well, of course.

Generally, it’s a good idea to ensure that there is in fact an outline of the terms of compensation in a contract before you accept.  That’s especially true for locum tenens, since the nature of the partnership is a bit tenuous right off the bat.  You can do your own part by filling out any timesheets properly and giving them to the staffing agency as soon as possible, as well.

Other Notes

When deciding to work as locum tenens, there are a lot of things to think about under the surface that may not seem too obvious.  One of the big ones is travel expenses.  Few people really think about them at first, but it can be quite important.  Depending on where you’re going to be a contractor, you may have to worry about things such as hotel fees and gas (just to name a few).

Sometimes these will be covered by the place hiring you, sometimes they won’t.  Either way, it’s not a bad idea to keep any receipts for your travel expenses to be filed away for later.  That way, they’ll be on hand when you need them.

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