America’s present physician shortage has significantly affected rural areas, home to more than 20 percent of the population and only 10 percent of practicing physicians. The shortfall of physicians and specialists in rural areas is sure to persist with the retirement of rural doctors and the predominance of younger physicians staying in the urban and suburban communities of their medical schools and residencies.
Rural areas in urgent need of physicians dramatically benefit from the access and expertise locum tenens physicians provide. Individuals in rural communities may have limited access to care due in part to distance, poverty, and physician shortages. Locum physicians provide not only increased access to care in these areas but also make an immediate impact by improving the quality of care available.
However, rural communities aren’t the only ones in need of the relief locum physicians provide. Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have also experienced the detrimental impact of physician shortages.
The deficit of VA healthcare workers led to news headlines about unbearable wait times that caused VA patients to seek out expensive private care. FQHCs serve almost 22 million Americans in rural areas and inner cities who exist on poverty-line income and lack the resources beyond their community health centers.
Clearly locum tenens physicians would mitigate the physician shortages in these facilities and help resume the proper continuity of care. Regardless of field or specialty, locum tenens make sense as every facility could be staffed swiftly without the time-consuming searches required to find full-time physicians in those placements.
Working in a rural or FQHC facility on a temporary basis is often agreeable to physicians who might object to a longer tenure. The other benefits of locum work of course also apply—generous compensation, travel, flexibility, accommodations paid for, etc. In addition to all this is the personal satisfaction of boosting care for patients who might otherwise experience insufficient or limited care. Many locum physicians find this—seeing the direct benefit to individuals and communities—the biggest reason of all to work locum assignments.
Physician demand is projected to outstrip supply for the next decade. As the scarcity of physicians in rural areas increases, so too will the benefits for locum physicians endeavoring to roll up their sleeves.
1 National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), accessed January 2015.Tags: Job Seeker