Using Locum Tenens as Part of Your Permanent Recruiting Strategy

Doctor visiting with patient

Doctor visiting with patientEach year, Weatherby Healthcare provides more than 160,000 days of locum tenens coverage across the country. Over the years, our business has evolved from reactionary recruitment to proactively filling a much wider range of needs.

Rather than just being asked to assist with emergent needs, we are also contacted to develop a locum recruitment strategy as part of the overall staffing solution for our clients.

According to the most recent ASPR benchmarking survey, it takes an average of 204 days for a hospital’s in-house recruitment team to fill an open position. In many cases, this long hiring process results in significant revenue loss for the facility.

Time to Hire

Here’s a typical scenario of a facility with a recruitment need within primary care, one of the most highly competitive markets.

  • The facility needs to recruit a single family practice physician because one of its doctors moved out of town and now there are only three physicians to support the practice.
  • It is located in a highly competitive market, so it’s tough to secure a permanent candidate.
  • The team does a stellar job of recruiting, and the permanent candidate signs the offer letter within 120 days (beating the reported average by more than two months).
  • The hire date is July 15.

Upon signing the offer letter, the following occurs:

  1.  The physician agrees to the terms, but still has to complete the 90-day out clause with her current employer.
  2. The physician is relocating for the job, so even though the out clause is completed in October, she takes the holidays to prepare for the move. That adds another 60 days to the timeline.
  3. Once credentialed, the physician needs to be signed up with the insurance companies through the hospital and paneled appropriately, taking another 30 days.

Though the in-house recruitment team did a great job finding a quality candidate within 120 days, they’re still facing an additional 140 days before the provider reports to work. That means a total of 260 days—roughly eight months—from the time the team started recruiting to when the provider reports to work.

Pressure on the Existing Team

During this long recruitment process, when there is no fourth physician, what happens to the other three doctors? Do they become frustrated with how long it takes to find another physician and start seeking new opportunities? Do they work too hard, get burned out, and decide they need to make a change?

Many facilities solve this challenge by bringing on a locum tenens physician to fill in while recruiting for a permanent team member. Here are some of the financial and personnel benefits.

Financial Benefits

Specialty Annual Gross Charge* Daily Gross Charges**
Family Practice $725,854  $2,254

**Daily figures come from the annual divided by 322 (avg. days worked by a physician, per Medical Group Management Association)

Let’s compare our 260-day recruitment scenario to a locum tenens solution. It typically takes around 60 days to credential a locum provider. That means there are 200 days of possible coverage. Taking the daily gross charges number outlined above, this equates to $451,400 of billable gross charges for the facility (based on the MGMA 2015 Report).

While this won’t be the amount netted by the hospital due to various collection practices, it’s a good illustration of the revenue that could be lost should the facility choose not to use a locum physician while waiting for their permanent hire to arrive. Obviously, there is also the cost of that locum provider to consider, but by using the simple formula below, you can easily calculate the ROI:

(Daily Gross Charges – Daily Locum Coverage Rate) x 200 days = ROI

Personal Benefits

While the financial aspect of this scenario is important, it is more crucial to consider the less tangible benefits. If the facility hires a locum tenens doctor, the team will not have to carry a heavier load while waiting for the new physician to start and are less likely to leave themselves. This decision also shows the facility’s commitment to the quality of life and practice standards of its team and can lead to stronger employee loyalty.

Above and beyond what they do for the facility’s staff, locum tenens physicians provide a huge benefit to the facility’s patients. More doctors in the practice means patients are seen more quickly and have no reason to look elsewhere for care.

Are Locum Tenens Part of Your Staffing Strategy?

Locum tenens staffing is a key strategy to address the staffing challenges in facilities, from rural markets to the largest metro areas of the country.

By using a locum tenens physician, the facility is able to meet their long-term objectives of recruiting a quality permanent candidate, while still focusing on its crucial immediate needs: continuity and quality of care. They will also be in a better position to retain their current staff and avoid the domino effect of one physician after another leaving. They’ll be able to keep their patients, build brand loyalty, and earn additional revenue in the process.

As an organization, Weatherby Healthcare understands the importance of the physicians we supply to our clients. We know that we must only credential the highest-quality candidates, be able to react quickly to our clients’ requests, and ensure that our providers help support both the immediate and long-term goals of our clients.

To learn more about the ways we work with facilities across the country, please reach out to us. Our leaders will contact you to discuss the many solutions we offer to help achieve your goals.

About the author


Trevor Strauss

Trevor Strauss is a strategic business manager, and his healthcare career has spanned single-source solutions and enterprise-wide programs. He is an active member of the ACHE.

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