How Healthcare Leaders Can Use Locum Tenens Support to Alleviate Pressures on Physicians
Time and time again, top healthcare leaders show what it takes to succeed – an exceptional ability to find creative solutions to the industry’s toughest challenges. Among the many issues today’s leaders face is improving and maintaining physician satisfaction.
Recent reports shed light on physicians’ top concerns, from burnout to lack of staffing. As leaders look for ways to address these concerns, they can consider locum tenens support as part of a comprehensive plan to address their physicians’ top challenges.
Read on to find:
- Top issues facing physicians today
- How leaders can use locums to address physicians’ top issues
- Benefits of locum tenens providers
- Why facilities rely on locum tenens support
- How leaders can use locums strategically to optimize resources
Top Issues Facing Physicians Today
In 2022, physicians reported that today’s top challenges were similar to those of the past. However, for the first time, physicians reported lack of staffing among their top 10 issues according to the Medical Economics 2022 Physician Report.1 The survey, now in its 93rd year, found physicians’ most pressing challenges were:
- Burden of paperwork/quality metrics
- Burnout/work-life balance
- Third-party interference (e.g., prior authorizations)
- Inadequate reimbursement
- Electronic health record systems
- Lack of staffing
- Lack of trust in healthcare institutions and medical knowledge
- Recruiting young physicians
- Malpractice/tort reform
- Supply shortages
How Leaders Can Use Locums to Address Physicians’ Top Issues
Five of the top 10 issues above that physicians reported in the Medical Economics survey can be eased with locums support:
Burden of paperwork/quality metrics – Bringing on locum tenens providers can spread out the workload, lightening patient volume for individual providers and thereby easing administrative burdens. Leaders can hire locums relief to help permanent providers have more time to deliver safe, top-level care and deal with requirements such as paperwork, quality metrics and other administrative tasks.
Burnout/work-life balance – Locums can be a quick and easy cure to help physicians avoid burnout and achieve better work-life balance. Excessive work hours have been shown by McHill et al. to lead to burnout.2 Further, 30% of physicians surveyed by Medscape took only 1-2 weeks of vacation in 2021.3 Effective healthcare leaders rely on locum tenens relief to give their providers much-needed time off.
Electronic health record systems – While EHR systems certainly aren’t going away, industry and regulatory efforts toward interoperability and improved usability may alleviate the burdens of these systems over time. Meanwhile, locums providers can help ease pressures on permanent physicians in much the same way they can be used to reduce paperwork and administrative burdens. More locums relief means lighter patient loads per provider which translates to more time to handle EHR issues.
Lack of staffing – Although it was the first time physicians listed lack of staffing among their top 10 issues in the Medical Economics survey, it’s not surprising. There are simply fewer providers, and more are planning to leave the field: Sinsky et al. found that 1 in 3 physicians, APPs and nurses surveyed intended to reduce work hours and 2 in 5 nurses and 1 in 5 physicians intend to leave the profession.4 Further, Mercer predicts a shortage of nearly 95,000 nursing assistants and 29,000 nurse practitioners by 2025.5
Recruiting young physicians – Seasoned physicians recognize that recruiting emerging doctors is challenging. The locum tenens arrangement provides a unique opportunity for new providers seeking jobs and healthcare organizations seeking providers to try out relationships. Locums can be a path to permanent employment and can allow facilities to see whether providers are a fit.
Benefits of Locum Tenens Providers
Locum tenens providers can help healthcare leaders improve the delivery of services across the board.
The locum tenens arrangement is designed to fill various clinical roles – there are locums assignments for physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists and more. Further, locums providers deliver both generalized and specialized care – from family medicine and general practice to hard-to-fill specialties like pulmonology and rheumatology.
Locum tenens providers also work in every healthcare setting. They can be found in hospitals, emergency departments, ambulatory surgery centers, rural health, skilled nursing facilities, palliative care, home health, telemedicine, corporate health, government agencies, etc.
Moreover, the locum tenens arrangement offers flexible scheduling solutions. Facilities can set assignment lengths for nearly any duration – from days to weeks to months – based on needs. And locum tenens providers are ready to mobilize rapidly. They’re at the ready when facilities need support. Skilled locums agencies are prepared to get providers into action swiftly.
Locums physicians provided through a trusted locums agency have been screened, vetted, licensed and credentialed. This significantly reduces healthcare organizations’ in-house time and expense.
Why Facilities Rely on Locum Tenens Support
Healthcare facilities rely on locum tenens providers to fill in for various reasons. For example, they hire locums:
When permanent providers:
- Need a vacation
- Are having a baby
- Are ill or need to quarantine
- Need to take family sick leave or bereavement leave
- Want to attend a conference
- Need a vacancy filled temporarily while interviewing permanent candidates
- Want to try out a locums provider to see whether they are a permanent fit
- Need to ramp up clinical staff quickly to meet surging patient volumes
- Need to increase access to essential services in underserved areas
- Need telehealth support to meet demands
How Leaders Can Use Locums Strategically to Optimize Resources
Leaders can take a strategic approach to using locums in a way that saves time and financial resources.
To optimize locums use, facilities can hire locums providers only when and where they’re needed.
They can also carefully consider which physicians seem overworked or stressed and provide those physicians with urgent relief. In the meantime, leaders can work on creating a schedule and workload that incorporates locums support to prevent burnout among physicians in the first place.
Rather than devoting in-house resources to locating, screening and hiring providers, leaders can turn to a trusted locum tenens agency for support.
At Cross Country Locums, we have a pipeline of providers at the ready, and we specialize in providing swift workforce solutions.
If you’re ready to hire locums to help solve your physicians’ top challenges, request coverage today.
- Medical Economics. 2022 Physician Report: Top 10 issues facing physicians this year. https://www.medicaleconomics.com/view/2022-physician-report-top-10-issues-facing-physicians-this-year. Jun. 21, 2022. Accessed Oct. 31, 2022.
- McHill, A.W., Czeisler, C.A., and Shea, S.A. “Resident physician extended work hours and burnout.” Sleep. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy112. Jun. 13, 2018. Accessed Oct. 31. 2022.
- Medscape Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report 2021. https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2021-lifestyle-happiness-6013446?icd=ssl_login_success_221031#1. Jan. 15, 2021. Accessed Oct. 31, 2022.
- Sinsky, C.A., Brown, R.L, Stillman, M.J., Linzer, M.L. “COVID-Related Stress and Work Intentions in a Sample of US Health Care Workers.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. https://www.mcpiqojournal.org/article/S2542-4548(21)00126-0/fulltext. Dec. 8, 2021. Accessed Oct. 31, 2021.
- Mercer. US Healthcare Labor Market Whitepaper. https://www.mercer.us/content/dam/mercer/assets/content-images/north-america/united-states/us-healthcare-news/us-2021-healthcare-labor-market-whitepaper.pdf. 2021. Accessed Oct. 31, 2021.