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How locum tenens can help amid physician shortage

A health care facility that is unable to quickly fill all of its open positions can be putting the well-being of its patients and the community at risk. Without efficient access to care, patients are left in the waiting room, and potentially life-threatening conditions can worsen.

However, today's health care facilities face their own uphill battles with recruitment and hiring, particularly in the midst of a physician shortage. Could locum tenens physicians provide the answer?

Physician shortage confirmed

A lack of trained physicians to fill available positions isn't just something that's being felt in one area or another. While this shortage certainly impacts rural areas more heavily than it affects more densely populated areas, the overall shortage of skilled physicians is something facing facilities across the entire nation.

According to a 2016 report from the Association of American Medical College, not only has an official physician shortage been confirmed, experts estimate that the health care industry will operate in this manner for longer than the next 10 years. Currently, there is a shortage ranging of between 61,700 and 94,700 physicians, with larger gaps present in specialty areas including surgical.

While the overall lack of physicians will reduce by 2025, the industry will still be in need of between 14,900 and 35,600 primary care physicians, according to estimates from the AAMC.

"As a psychiatrist, I have seen firsthand what it means for patients not to be able to receive the care they need," said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD. "These projected shortages are very troubling and only reinforce the importance of ensuring that all patients have access to health care for their physical and mental well-being."

Young doctor sitting in her office with stethoscope around her neck working on laptop computer with book nearby.
Locum tenens physicians can help fill staffing gaps and provide essential care in the face of a nationwide physician shortage.

How locum tenens can help

By its very nature, the approach of locum tenens work can provide the ideal solution for the health care industry as the physician shortage persists. As opposed to working full-time, long-term positions at a single facility, locum tenens enables physicians to work in more of a freelance fashion. As StatNews contributor Max Blau explained, locum tenens physicians provide care under shorter contracts, allowing them to move from facility to facility and fill gaps where needed.

Blau noted that while there used to be a stigma that came along with locum tenens - mainly the belief among patients that freelance physicians weren't as talented as full-time doctors - this negative and incorrect stereotype has all but disappeared as more physicians decide to take the locum tenens route.

In particular, locum tenens physicians have been particularly helpful in rural areas, where health care facilities typically have a harder time recruiting and hiring full-time doctors.

"94% of health care facility managers have worked with contract physicians within the last year."

What's more, the practice is becoming increasingly favorable among facilities with open physician positions - one study found that 94 percent of health care facility managers had worked with contract physicians within the last year.

Overall locum tenens physicians offer several advantages for health care facilities feeling the effects of the physician shortage, including:

  • Filling staffing gaps: During a time when it is difficult to fill available positions, locum tenens physicians can help fill gaps in the short term, as the facility's managers work to recruit full-time staff members.
  • Ensuring patients receive necessary care: As noted, a lack of full staff can mean making patients wait longer than necessary for care, or having to direct patients to other health care facilities. Locum tenens physicians, on the other hand, enable facilities to provide needed care, and can help avoid hospitals from having to turn patients away due to lack of resources.
  • Providing more choice for hiring: As more physicians go the locum tenens route as opposed to working full-time positions, there is a larger pool of trained professionals available for hospitals looking to fill shorter-term contracts.

Connecting health care facilities with freelance physicians

Bringing locum tenens physicians into the workforce can be a considerable advantage, but health care facilities must have a robust and streamlined way to manage the contracts of these individuals. In these situations, a workforce management platform that can offer users granular management of recruiting, scheduling, payroll, attendance and other critical data is absolutely key.

To find out more about the benefits of locum tenens physicians and what your organization needs for proper workforce management, contact the experts at BlueSky Medical Staffing Software today.

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