Wanderlust and Wards: The Pros and Cons of Locum Tenens Nursing

By Nick Dobrzelecki, MBA, BSN, RN, Managing Partner and co-founder 

Healthcare facilities across the country are facing a critical shortage of nurses. A 2022 American Association of Colleges of Nursing report highlights a projected deficit of up to 1.1 million registered nurses by 2030[1]. This shortage puts a strain on hospitals and clinics, impacting patient care and staff well-being.

To bridge this gap, many hospitals are turning to locum tenens nurses. A Latin term meaning “to hold the place of,” locum tenens refers to temporary, licensed nurses who fill short-term positions at healthcare facilities. These assignments can range from a few weeks to several months.

But is locum tenens nursing the right fit for you? Let’s explore the good, the bad, and the wanderlust-worthiness of this unique career path.

Why Nurses Choose Locum Tenens:

  • Flexibility: Locum tenens gives nurses the freedom to choose where and when they work. These nurses travel, pick up extra shifts, or take breaks as needed, making it a good lifestyle choice for those with a taste of adventure.
  • Higher Pay: Locum tenens nurses often command higher hourly or daily rates compared to permanent staff nurses. This can be a significant perk, especially for nurses looking to pay off debt or save for future goals.
  • Diverse Experience: Every assignment brings a new environment and set of challenges. For those who want to be exposed to a variety of healthcare practices, locum tenens work allows nurses to broaden their skill sets and explore different specialties.

The Flip Side of Flexibility:

  • Lack of Stability: The impermanent nature of locum tenens can be a double-edged sword. While it offers freedom, it also means a lack of guaranteed income and benefits. These nurses are responsible for finding their own health insurance and may have limited vacation time.
  • Integration Challenges: Fitting in as the “new nurse” can be demanding. It takes time to learn a new facility’s protocols and build rapport with staff.
  • Travel Considerations: While travel can be exciting, it also comes with costs. Locum tenens nurses may need to factor in housing, transportation, and potential licensing requirements for different states.

Hospitals & Locum Tenens: A Mutually Beneficial Arrangement?

For hospitals, locum tenens nurses offer a lifeline during staffing shortages. They can fill crucial gaps in patient care and provide continuity of services. In a 2023 study, a vast majority of healthcare facilities (82%) surveyed said their top reason for hiring locums was to fill an opening until a permanent candidate could be found[2]. Additionally, utilizing locum tenens staff can help prevent your permanent staff from burnout. As Darin Musser, Sr. Director of| Locum Tenen Services, Sanford Health noted in the same study: “Burnout is an ongoing concern for all health systems, and at Sanford the use of locums can help fill gaps in rotations that will give our permanent providers time to decompress.”

However, there are potential downsides to consider including higher cost-per-hour, integration time, workflow disruption, and long-term retention rates.

We have to do better caring for our healthcare professionals, not just treating them as a warm body to fill an organizational requirement. The decision to pursue locum tenens nursing or utilize locum tenens staff is a personal and strategic one. Weigh the pros and cons carefully, considering your career goals and the specific needs of the healthcare facility.

Finally, be sure you work with a partner who truly understands the healthcare industry and the needs of both the nurses and the organization. Extending beyond traditional staffing solutions, Titan Health Staffing works diligently to fill hard-to-staff specialties, from providers to technicians, by building a robust network in conjunction with Titan Health’s other subsidiary companies, partnerships, and investments. Each healthcare professional under the Titan Health Staffing platform is assigned a dedicated liaison who represents their interests, advocates for them, and keeps them informed about opportunities and any changes in their assignments. Learn more at titanhealthstaffing.com.

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[1] https://www.aacnnursing.org/news-data/fact-sheets/nursing-shortage
[2] https://chghealthcare.com/chg-state-of-locum-tenens-report

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