7 Things You Should Know

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), there were 290,000 licensed nurse practitioners (NP) in the United States as of August 2020. Furthermore, AANP estimates that the number of patient visits to NPs now exceeds 1.06B annually. With more jobs than clinicians available, many healthcare facilities are turning to locum tenens providers as a way to fill the void. Come along with us as we explore what it means to be a locum tenens nurse practitioner and what you need to know about a career within this growing field.

What is locum tenens?

a locum tenens nurse practitioner with her patientLocum tenens is defined as “one filling an office for a time or temporarily taking the place of another” (Merriam-Webster). Within the modern healthcare setting, the term locum tenens specifically refers to a provider (e.g., physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner) that temporarily fills in for another clinician while they are unavailable to work.

Currently, the United States is facing a shortage of qualified clinicians. As a result, the locum tenens practice is flourishing across all medical specialties and settings.

Why become a locum tenens nurse practitioner?

Nurse practitioners become locum tenens providers for a variety of reasons. For some, it is the opportunity to acquire the skills and experience that come from working in a diverse array of practice settings. Others enjoy the higher hourly pay rates and the ability to choose how often they will work. Still others enjoy the chance to take their career on the road and practice medicine as an independent contractor.

To find out more about the benefits of locum work, read our blog post: 7 Benefits of Locum Tenens Work

7 Things to Know About Locum Tenens Nurse Practitioner Jobs

1. Salary and Housing

Locum tenens nurse practitioners are compensated as independent contractors and paid an hourly wage. While the hourly rate will vary based on assignment type and location, locum tenens NPs can expect to earn a higher hourly rate than their full-time, permanent counterparts.

Furthermore, locum tenens NPs can also expect to receive a housing and/or travel stipend as part of their compensation package. These payments are provided as a tax-free, government-approved stipend. Locum tenens nurse practitioners are allowed to keep any money that is left over after they have covered the cost of their housing and travel expenses.

Summary: Nurse practitioners receive a higher hourly rate and a travel stipend as part of their compensation package.

2. Required Experience

While it is possible to obtain a locum tenens nurse practitioner job immediately following your education and training, it is not advisable for two main reasons. First and foremost, your first permanent, full-time position is where you build your confidence as a new clinician. Colleagues and coworkers are more likely to be patient with you as you learn the ropes.

Second, facilities that hire locum tenens NPs expect them to “hit the ground running” on day one. For that reason, it is best to have 1-2 years of solid work experience under your belt before transitioning to the world of locum tenens.

Summary: Nurse practitioners should have 1-2 years of full-time permanent work experience before working locum tenens.

3. Contract Length

Locum tenens nurse practitioner assignments come in all shapes and sizes. From contracts that are only a few days long to contracts that last an entire year, the length of the assignment is based entirely on the needs of the hiring facility. Within the locum tenens NP industry, the most popular/common contract length is three months.

However, if a nurse practitioner fits in well with a facility’s culture and employees, it is not uncommon for an extension to be offered. Furthermore, some locum tenens NP assignments become permanent placement opportunities when both parties are amenable to it.

Summary: Three months is the average length of most locum tenens nurse practitioner contracts.

4. A Desire to Travel

Locum tenens agencies work with healthcare facilities across the country. As a result, their contract work opportunities can be located anywhere (from Portland, Maine to San Diego, California and everywhere in between). Locum tenens NPs that are willing to travel are generally matched with assignments more quickly and frequently. In fact, candidates with the most location flexibility are among those first contacted when a new position becomes available.

If you are a locum tenens nurse practitioner that is ready to take their career on the road, be sure to obtain a license in one of the Nurse Licensure Compact states. It will make the recruiting and hiring process easier for you.

Summary: Locum tenens NPs that are willing to travel have an easier time securing contracts.

5. Locum NP Hot Spots

While most clinicians dream of landing a locum tenens assignment in a tropical, sunny location (e.g., San Diego, Palm Beach, Honolulu), the reality is that these places are not locum tenens hot spots. Since these tropical paradises are highly populated, there tends to be low demand for locum tenens. Additionally, when a locum tenens position becomes available, there is a high amount of competition.

Currently, within the United States, the area experiencing the greatest demand for locum tenens NPs is rural communities. A locum tenens nurse practitioner that is willing to work in a rural community can expect to secure a position with a competitive compensation package quickly.

Summary: There is a high demand for locum tenens NPs in America’s rural communities.

6. In-Demand NP Specialties

Given the nation’s shortage of qualified advanced practice clinicians, there is a need for locum tenens NPs in almost every healthcare setting. From emergency departments and surgical centers to clinics and outpatient settings, locum tenens NPs are being called upon to ensure an adequate level of care.

That being said, primary care and behavioral health facilities have demonstrated the most consistent demand for locum tenens NPs over time. Nurse practitioners interested in pursuing a locum tenens career within these in-demand specialties should hold current certifications (Family Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner) from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Summary: There is a consistent demand for FNPs and PMHNPs.

7. Premier Physician Services Has Locum NP Jobs

While our company name is “Premier Physician Services LLC,” we offer more than just physician placement services. In fact, we help advanced practice clinicians from every specialty and setting find meaningful short- and long-term career opportunities.

Right now, we are experiencing a higher-than-normal demand for locum tenens NPs. If you are a nurse practitioner, we would love the opportunity to connect with you and learn more about your long-term career goals. If you are interested in speaking with one of our placement experts, please complete the contact form below and we will be in touch shortly.

Summary: If you are a nurse practitioner, we want to connect with you!

  • Upload your CV or resume file here.

Explore additional resources from Premier Physician Services LLC:

5 Benefits of a Locum Tenens Agency
Communicating from Behind the Mask
Navigating the Time Between Locum Tenens Contracts
Protecting Your Mental Health: 7 Tips for Navigating Stress and Uncertainty