10 Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Locum Tenens Assignment

Anyone considering a locum tenens contract is sure to be full of questions, especially if it is their first assignment. Jeff Barton and Tyler Shade, both senior recruiting consultants for AMN Healthcare, answer some of your most pressing questions about locum tenens jobs and suggest some specific questions you will want to get answered before accepting a contract.  

Some of these answers you can get from your own recruiter, some from the hiring practice, and some you will need to answer for yourself.

10 Things To Know Before Signing A Locum Tenens Contract 

1. What do I want from this assignment? 

“One of the first things a physician who wants to take a locum tenens assignment needs to do is ask themselves, ‘What are my goals?’” said Barton. “If you are trying to work less, you need to figure out what kind of income you need. Or perhaps your desire is to travel and explore different parts of the country. You also need to know if you are looking for shorter-term assignments like filling in for physicians while they are on vacation, or if you want your assignments to be longer. We have assignments as short as one day and as long as one year.” 

FIND locum tenens assignments that meet your personal and professional goals. 

2. What will be my scope of practice? 

Every locum tenens will have an interview with a physician or manager from the hiring practice or facility. This is the perfect time for physicians and advanced practitioners to ask questions regarding their expected scope of practice.

“I work particularly with surgeons and have found that the procedures considered standard for different specialties may vary by location,” remarked Barton.

Advanced practitioners’ scope of practice can also vary widely depending on the state, including nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists, so it pays to research the state mandates ahead of time. 

3. Who is responsible for my travel and housing expenses? 

In almost all cases, AMN Healthcare will cover the costs of traveling to a locum assignment, the rental car, and the housing. The staff will also do the work of finding and arranging for housing during your assignment. Locums who need larger-than-normal accommodations for family traveling with them may have to pay the additional expenses out of pocket.

Some part-time locum tenens assignments may not involve travel, so the terms for these contracts are likely to differ. 

4. What housing accommodations are available? 

“I always encourage physicians to get online to get a feel for the housing options and to think through what they want. Do they need a kitchenette? Is it important to them to be on the bottom or top floor of the building? We want our physicians to be 100 percent comfortable.” said Barton. “And after arrival, if there is ever something about the location or the unit that doesn’t work for them, we are glad to find something that will.”

“Also, we can always find accommodations that allow pets,” he added. “In fact, once we arranged a rental on five acres with a barn for a traveler who was taking three pigs along.”

He noted that locum tenens travelers are responsible for any additional fees associated with bringing a pet, such as pet deposits and damage fees.  

5. How will I be compensated? 

Your assignment contract should spell out the details of your locum tenens salary, including any stipulations for bonuses, shift differentials, overtime pay, on-call coverage, etc. It should also spell out what expenses will be covered by your agency.

Locum tenens salaries are paid by your staffing agency, and you should expect to submit a timesheet on a periodic basis; at AMN Healthcare, this is done through a convenient online portal. Many compensation and payment questions can be addressed by your recruiter, but recruitment consultants are not meant to provide legal or financial advice. 

6. Does my locum tenens job include health or malpractice insurance? 

“Locum tenens physicians and advanced practitioners are considered independent contractors, or 1099 employees.  This means that they do not receive health insurance through AMN Healthcare and also that we don’t withhold any taxes,” noted Barton. “Malpractice insurance, however, is provided.”  

7. How do I get licensure for a new state? 

Each state has its own requirements for medical licensure, so if you will be working a locum tenens job in a new state, AMN Healthcare's in-house licensing team will do everything they can to make the process as easy as possible. They can provide information on timelines and processes, provide contact information for the state licensure board, fill out much of the paperwork, and then send you the application clearly marked where questions and signatures are needed. 

8. How long will it be before I start working? 

The start time for a specific assignment will depend on the hiring practice, licensure timelines, and other factors, but if you want to start working right away, there are options to help you do that.

“It can really vary, but if a physician is motivated and flexible about the location and types of jobs they take, then I can usually get someone a locum tenens assignment in 60 to 90 days and keep them working as much as they want,” Shade said. 

9. Have I disclosed everything? 

“It is critical to be absolutely transparent about any background issues—even, or especially, those that don’t seem significant,” Shade emphasized. “I recently had a physician who had disclosed to us a background issue that really wasn’t a big deal, but he wasn’t completely transparent during the credentialing process. This resulted in the hiring client becoming suspicious that he was hiding something and he lost the contract.”  

10. What if I hate it? or What if I love it? 

Well, there is good news on both counts.

“Every locum tenens contract offers physicians a 30-day out. So if the location or the co-workers or the travel just isn’t working out, you aren’t stuck,” said Shade. “On the other hand, if you love the location and your co-workers and the client is looking to hire for a permanent position, I’m certain that a doctor who they know and have a good working relationship with is going to have an advantage over other applicants.” 

If you have any additional questions about locum tenens assignments, AMN Healthcare's recruitment team is ready to answer those for you. To learn more about locum tenens opportunities across the country, simply complete the form on the right of this page. 

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