A Placeholder For Missing Hospital Staff


Recruitment continues to be a severe challenge for hospitals. Across the country, there is a lack of skilled workers to fill much-needed roles. Studies estimate a shortage of over 90,000 doctors in the coming years. To address the issue, many hospitals turn to locum tenens hiring. Locum tenens are placeholders or temporary doctors, nurses, or other medical staff. These substitutes help provide coverage for a vacation, illness, or general staff shortages.

emergency staffing solutions 3 Reasons Locum Tenens Is Not The Answer To Recruitment Challenges

The locum tenens upside

Locum tenens is not all bad. Many rural hospitals turn to temporary doctors and staff to treat patients. Patients may have a shorter length of stay, and the hospital may reduce LWBS numbers. There are also advantages for physicians who prefer flexibility, short contracts, and a nomadic lifestyle. Yet in the grand scheme of things, locum tenens does not address the long-term recruitment problems. Here are 3 reasons why.

1. The long-term cost can be irreparable

Temporary staff often require higher salaries and other incentives to work on the fly. While the hospital saves on one end, more revenue goes into competing with other hospitals for staff. Locum tenens recruitment agency costs also add up. If hospitals include the time lost for placeholder staff to learn the ropes, the loss can be irreversible. Hospitals should consider investing in telecase management, telemedicine, or advanced practice providers. With these moves, hospitals have a more reliable workforce. Locum tenens will be complimentary.

2. Teamwork makes the dream work

Locum tenens staff often come into work for a short period. While these members add expertise, most do not have the time to integrate with the team. Others may perform duties based on prior knowledge, contradicting the hospital’s mission and vision. Team chemistry may not be quantifiable but has intrinsic value. A lack of teamwork can increase readmissions and length of stay, increasing hospital costs.

3. Reduces the quality of patient care

Quality of care is a critical metric for hospitals. Revenue is dependent on customer flow. Recruitment challenges mean a longer wait and length of stay. At the same time, some patients expect consistency. For instance, in rural hospitals, patients see a local, well-known doctor. Constant changes can mean an inconsistent level of care.

Focus on the right long-term solutions

Today, hospitals struggle to reach the staffing levels needed to serve patients. Naturally, there is a temptation to rely on locum tenens doctors and support staff. The process puts a skilled person in front of a patient. However, there are cost and quality concerns that can spell danger for hospitals. There are more robust actions that can complement or replace locum tenens. These include telemedicine, remote case management, hiring select APPs, and hospitalists. Hospitals can then form an environment to answer recruitment challenges.