According to a recent Medscape report, physician salaries went up across the board this year. But what does this mean for locum tenens physicians?
This increase marks a major shift in compensation trends––for the first time in eleven years, there has been a reported income increase across every single specialty. That’s excellent news for physicians, in a time of increasing healthcare worker shortages. And for locum tenens physicians in particular, it means that there’s never been a better time to take the locums leap.
Here are some of the highlights from the report, and what they mean for locums physicians:
Why the Increase?
There are a lot of reasons for these increases: first, there are more job openings than usual, due to physicians leaving their positions or retiring altogether.
There has also been a significant amount of patient and procedure build-up over the past two years, due to patients putting off procedures or neglecting their regular check-ups during the pandemic. Now that things are opening back up, many of these delayed procedures are now hitting at the same time.
In some cases, this back-up has led to hospitals running 6-8 months out on their case and procedure logs, due to lack of staffing to accommodate the backlog.
It’s worth mentioning that this rise likely won’t last forever––much like the housing market, the locums market tends to shift with every month. So if you’ve been thinking about taking the leap into locums, now is a great time to do it.
While income went up for physicians across the board, some specialties saw higher jumps than others. Here are the top-earning specialties:
- Plastic surgery: $576,000 (10% increase from 2021)
- Orthopedics: $557,000 (9% increase from 2021)
- Cardiology: $490,000 (7% increase from 2021)
- Otolaryngology: $469,000 (12% increase from 2021)
- Urology: $461,000 (8 percent increase from 2021)
- Gastroenterology: $453,000 (12% increase from 2021)
- Dermatology: $438,000 (11% increase from 2021)
- Radiology: $437,000 (6% increase from 2021)
- Ophthalmology: $417,000 (10% increase from 2021)
- Oncology: $411,000 (2% increase from 2021)
On the locum tenens side, we’ve seen increases in nearly every specialty, and most recently in oncology and gastroenterology. There is always an ebb and flow when it comes to the demand for specific specialties.
Certain states have also seen bigger increases than others, with some of the biggest increases in Southern, majority-rural states. Here are the top-earning states:
- Kentucky: $364,000
- Tennessee: $364,000
- Alabama: $358,000
- Missouri: $357,000
- Oregon: $352,000
- Indiana: $350,000
- North Carolina: $348,000
- Connecticut: $346,000
- Texas: $346,000
- Florida: $346,000
This trend is consistent for locum tenens physicians as well as hospital physicians; rural locations tend to pay at higher rates than urban areas, because the need is higher.
Physicians in these rural locations also tend to be harder to replace than in cities, so in light of increasing physician shortages, they’ve seen quite an uptick in the past couple of years.
Self-Employed Vs. Employed Physicians
On average, self-employed physicians––including locum tenens physicians––made 20% more than employed physicians this year.
This trend is not surprising: 9 times out of 10, locums physicians make more than hospital physicians. There are two major reasons for this difference: first, locums providers risk the lack of benefits and secure monthly income for the reward of much higher pay.
Secondly, locums physicians are often called upon to fill a pressing need for hospitals––and hospitals are thus willing to pay a premium to fill it. It’s important to remember that locums is not a forever option for most facilities. The end goal of a hospital is always to hire a full-time physician to replace a locums physician.
In the meantime, locum tenens physicians can be paid at much higher rates to fill the gap until the hospital can fill the role.
According to Medscape’s report, over a third of the physicians took on additional work to supplement their income––including locum tenens.
The locums space grew significantly this year compared to other years, due almost certainly to more physicians entering locums for the first time.
There are several reasons for this shift: physicians may have left their permanent positions due to burnout, or their private practices may have suffered during the pandemic and thus they had to take on additional work. Another factor may be the changing nature of work in general: in light of the pandemic, more and more workers are seeking flexibility in their roles, and physicians are no different.
Locums lets you work at your own pace, which is an attractive aspect for many physicians, especially after the stress of the last few years. It’s not an option for overextended physicians to simply stop working for a year; if they want to continue practicing medicine, they have to keep their case logs current. Locums offers physicians a way of slowing down, without stopping altogether––or sacrificing their income.
One thing is clear from these trends: there has never been a better time to try locums.
Whatever your reason for wanting to try locums, there are more than enough opportunities available, and your consultant is ready and waiting to help you negotiate the best possible rate.