Wondering what your professional life will look like as a physician assistant?  There are many options, depending on the lifestyle that your heart is set on.  Today’s topic is another option to consider–an interesting one.  I’m talking about locum tenens work.

Locum Tenens is a the medical version of “temping.”

Locum tenens translates roughly into “placeholder.”  (for another employee).  Believe it or not, physicians and physician assistants do work temporary assignments, and they can be great opportunities if your personal situation is right.

Locum positions can last from a week or two to months, depending on the reason the employer needs the help. Common reasons for seeking a locum include keeping a busy clinic afloat while a PA or physician is on maternity or other medical leave.  Sometimes it’s as simple as covering for a PA who is on vacation, when failing to do so would cause the employer to become backed up.  Remember, most medical settings are businesses, and are therefore profit-driven. Some locum tenens physician assistants even travel the country moving from one locum tenens job to another, much like a rock band on tour (minus the bus full of “roadies.”)  The ability to do this depends on the state where a PA’s certification resides, and the laws of the states where they work.

Advantages of Locum Tenens Work:

  • The demand for locum PAs is similar to that of regularly employed PAs: strong.  To get a feel for the need, take a look at comphealth.com’s s listing for physician assistants. (Scroll down after clicking the link).
  • They allow clinicians to work in an even greater variety of settings, with a greater variety of patients and other co-workers than a regularly employed PA might.
  • Best for those who are single, without children, inter-personally flexible, and like to move around.
  • Can be a nice way to sample different specialties and work environments, and can lead to permanent employment if the fit is right for employee and employer.
  • The pay is generally higher because locum positions are shorter term, and therefore harder to fill.

Disadvantages of Locum Tenens Work:

  • The work is transient; there may not be enough locum positions in any one geographic area  to allow the employee to stay put without commuting.
  • Less job security – when an assignment ends, the locum must find another.
  • Added stress from frequently working to fit into each new position and adjust to new coworkers
  • Though uncommon, locums may feel resentment from other employees because they receive higher pay and are not permanent enough to be given as much responsibility.