The growing physician shortage is hitting rural America the hardest. Facilities in these communities rely on locum tenens to help bridge a gap that has only widened since COVID-19. We hear less about the role locums play in combatting provider burnout. However, it is a fact they are also alleviating the stress felt by their fellow providers.
The declining number of physicians in this country is a problem that can be devastating for smaller communities. Nearly a third of Americans have difficulty accessing primary care locally. Whether it is older physicians retiring or fewer younger people choosing careers in medicine, facilities must fill the void. That means relying even more heavily on overworked veteran providers. Provider burnout can thin the already strained ranks of physicians. That is where locums can be indispensable.
A Much Needed Break
Locum assignments are typically short. But even a few months of relief can give providers at rural facilities the opportunity to recharge their batteries. By covering shifts, locums allow their colleagues to take much-needed vacations or spend less time on call. The welcome break can keep providers energized and engaged.
Provider burnout contribute to the struggle of retention. The ability to offer a better work/life balance can be a competitive advantage for a rural hospital. The key to this is having an adequate number of providers to share the workload. By plugging in locums to fill out an ER schedule, for example, facilities are investing in the long-term sustainability of their organization by lessening the effect of provider burnout.
An Alternative Career Path
Locum work also affords physicians another option rather than leaving healthcare entirely. One of the main draws is the ability to set their own schedule. This flexibility allows physicians to work when they want and carve out time to relax. Additionally, locums can avoid hospital politics that can drain providers.
Locum tenens are an enduring component of rural healthcare’s strategy for success. They may also play a growing role in reducing provider burnout and stemming the tide of men and women leaving the profession.
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