Locum Tenens – The Last 30 Years

By: Frank Phillips


This coming May, I will celebrate my 30th year in this amazing industry. Since this week is National Locum Tenens Week, I caught myself reflecting over the years and recounting the many changes that the industry has seen.

When I first joined the industry, the users of locum tenens services were either hospitals who we worked directly with or solo physician practices. Not too long afterwards, managed care came into play and practices began merging into larger groups and hospitals began to merge forming healthcare systems in efforts to remain competitive and profitable. The mid-1990’s through mid-2000’s saw many new competitors enter the marketplace as the industry was very appealing with a relatively low cost of entry and double-digit, year-over-year growth. Demand was increasing as health care systems became more educated on how locum tenens fit into their staffing models.

Along that same timeframe came the Contract Management Companies like TeamHealth, EmCare, and Sound Physicians to name a few. These organizations began greater use of locum tenens as part of their staffing model particularly with their new contract startups. The industry’s growth was widespread with new agencies, more providers entering the space, and more healthcare facilities depending on locum tenens staffing to get them through the busier times.

The Late-2000’s and into the 2010’s brought the Affordable Care Act, Accountable Care, as well as a recession. While the recession was crippling to some industries, locum tenens merely went from double-digit annual growth, to high single-digit growth. The Affordable Care Act granted health insurance to millions of patients who did not previously have coverage, thus increasing the demand for physicians. Hospital Census numbers grew, and so did the competition in the space. Additionally during the past 10 years we have seen the addition of Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) enter the industry adding more complexity to placing providers with clients where they are needed.

Today, we see an industry still growing. Maybe not at the double-digit increases that we once experienced, but nonetheless demand is still strong. The one thing that has remained unchanged throughout my 30 years with all the change and growth of this industry is the selflessness and willingness of the locum tenens providers. They go to places that no one else wants to go. They provide healthcare to those who would not otherwise receive the help that they need and deserve. The satisfaction of being part of an industry and a group of providers like this is the primary reason this industry has held me captive for 30 years. Hats off to our Locum Tenens Providers during this special week of recognition! You deserve much more. Thank you for all that you do!