The demography, career pattern, and motivation of locum tenens physicians in the United States

J Healthc Manag. Nov-Dec 2004;49(6):363-75; discussion 375-6.


The objective of this study was to provide a profile of locum tenens providers and their motivation for choosing this practice pattern. The research design used was a cross-sectional mailed survey questionnaire. Participants included the 1662 physicians who accepted at least one locum tenens assignment in 2001 from one physician staffing service. They were asked to complete a 50-element questionnaire; 776 (47 percent) responded. The average age of respondents was 53.0 years. Men represented 70.3 percent of the sample and were significantly older (56.3 years) than women providers who responded (45.3 years). One-third considered a locum tenens practice pattern permanent. Primary care locums were younger than specialists and subspecialists. Female providers were disproportionately practicing in primary care specialties (43.9 percent); 64 percent used locum income as their sole source of support and were frequently (31 percent) motivated by a need for a flexible work schedule. Male locum physicians were weighted toward the subspecialties and were motivated mostly (62 percent) by a desire to continue to practice part time. They used locum income as a secondary means of support (33 percent) or to augment pension and retirement resources (38 percent). A physician workforce from most major specialties and subspecialties and all age groups and career stages fulfills career and economic goals by working in a short-term, temporary employment pattern. Locum tenens appeals to physician providers who desire a healthier, more controllable lifestyle.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Career Mobility
  • Contract Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Health Workforce
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Physicians / supply & distribution
  • Registries*
  • Specialization
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States