All About locum

A Beginner’s Guide to Working Locum Tenens


Different healthcare staffing agencies handle locum tenens staffing in different ways. This article is intended to provide you an overview of locum tenens – from scheduling, to logistics, to payment, and more – as well describe as how Wapiti Medical Staffing handles these processes. 



1. About Locum Tenens

Let’s start with the basics: What the heck is locum tenens anyway?

Merriam-Webster defines locum tenens as someone (in this case a medical practitioner) who temporarily takes the place of another. Some facilities require sporadic locum tenens coverage for maybe a day or week at a time, while others may require longer-term coverage during a regular practitioner’s absence or a personnel vacancy. While many practitioners choose to work locum as a way to supplement their regular income (aka moonlighting), it is possible to make a full-time career of it.

So why do physicians and advanced practice providers choose to work locum? There are many possible answers to that questions, which vary from person-to-person. Some people enjoy the thrill of exploring a new region of the country, while others want a flexible work schedule and a freedom-based lifestyle. Income potential is often a factor in choosing to make the leap from hospital staff to locum tenens. Whether you are just finishing your residency or sunsetting your career, there is no better time than now for you to become an independent practitioner.

Healthcare Facilities will Always Need Locum Tenens Providers

The use of locum tenens staffing has steadily increased over recent years, with more than 90% of U.S. healthcare facilities now reporting the use of locum tenens physicians every year.

Driving factors of this rise include:

  • increased demand for health care providers in underserved areas
  •  a provider gap that many facilities experience when employees
    • take vacations,
    • go on maternity leave, or
    • resign positions.

These factors create a gap in services in many parts of the country. Utilizing locum practitioners closes this gap and enables rural and critical access hospitals to function at their full potential. As baby boomers continue to age, the demand for health care providers will continue to increase and the current provider gap will expand.

2. Is Locum Right for You?

There is only so much time in a month — if you currently spend most of yours at the hospital dealing with administrative pressures and stress, or worrying about whether you’d like to keep practicing at all — it might be time to seriously consider the locum lifestyle.

Whatever your reasons, there is a lot to learn when you first get started. Locum tenens physicians and advanced practice providers enjoy more freedom and flexibility because they can choose when, where and how much they work. This control results in a more balanced life, a great income that can be scaled up or down depending on how much one chooses to work and a fulfilling career that is more about caring for patients than dealing with hospital politics.

A good locum tenens staffing company will provide you with options to best suit your needs. At Wapiti, we provide our partner providers with the following: 

1. Freedom of Schedule

2. Freedom of Choice


Create space for things you love by choosing your own schedule. When you partner with Wapiti, you are no longer bound by a schedule imposed on you by someone else. As an independently contracted practitioner with Wapiti, we will make every possible accommodation to help you create the schedule and work/life balance that you desire.


Why go from one strict set of rules to another? Unlike most other staffing companies, we will never ask you to sign an exclusivity agreement. This essentially makes you a free agent, able to continue your full-time employment or even take on other contracted work if you desire. Our goal is to help you achieve the income, schedule and work/life balance you deserve.


At Wapiti, we match the needs of our providers to our openings, not the other way around. Our scheduling team will work directly with you to ensure you are satisfied with your location, shifts and travel arrangements. When a provider wants to pick up shifts or change locations, we provide options to make those requests a reality. At Wapiti, many of our hospital contracts are in areas with low volumes, allowing you to work longer shifts with lower stress levels.


There are many benefits to becoming an independently contracted practitioner, but there can also be a lot of decisions to make. You will choose your location, shifts, and schedule.

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Some key questions to ask yourself early on:

  • How far am I willing to travel?
  • How frequently do I want to travel?
  • What length of time do I prefer to be away?
  • What volume of patients am I comfortable covering?
  • What length of shifts do I want to work?
  • What pay rate do I need?

The transition from being employed by a hospital, clinic or another agency to being a self-employed independent practitioner is about finding the best fit for you. Keeping an open mind will allow you the flexibility to try out a few things first-hand before making a long-term commitment.


Credentialing and licensing processes differ from state to state, and a great staffing agency will assist and guide you through them. Returning requested paperwork or other materials as quickly as possible is the key to getting credentialed and licensed in a timely manner. Most lags occur due to the time it takes you to produce these items so be prepared and have them ready. This will help you to get on the schedule when you desire.

Wapiti has a credentialing team that will assist you with the credentialing and licensing processes. Our professional staff will guide you every step of the way, even going so far as to help you apply for state licenses. There’s never a doubt or worry when you are on board with Wapiti. We make the process as seamless as possible and answer all your questions quickly.


Whether you are a parent looking to work one weekend a month, a retired physician desiring a few lower-volume shifts, or an Advanced Practice Provider looking for full-time work, you have the freedom to create your own ideal schedule. Here are a few scenarios in which an independent practitioner’s schedule fits various life situations: 


Are you a parent who wants more time at home? 

Work long weekends – two 96-hour shifts per month – and enjoy being home with your family the rest of the month!

Are you a health care provider capable of greater income? 

Work longer shifts at lower-volume facilities as a solo provider and enjoy flexible part-time or full-time schedules.

Are you an employed or retired health care provider desiring supplemental income? 

Earn extra money by working shifts at a lower-volume facility. This is perfect if you would like to work more but don’t want to take on the stress of higher-volume shifts.


3. The Logistics of Locum

Ugh. Travel. Traveling can be daunting even in the best of times. It can even be more unnerving when you are going to a place you aren’t familiar with to get to your locum tenens assignment in a timely fashion. Here are some things to keep in mind when traveling for locum tenens work.


Where you stay depends on the placement you choose. Some hospitals provide their own housing, while others may pay for you to stay in a hotel. You will fill a vital role in that facility, and they will do a great deal to help you out. Ultimately, for Wapiti partner providers, our Logistics Coordinator will coordinate your stay and ensure that you are comfortable.


Travel times and arrangements vary by placement and your home location. Many providers fly to and from their work location, while others are close enough to travel by vehicle. Travel expenses are sometimes reimbursed but are always tax-deductible if not reimbursed. Expenses will be outlined in your agreement. You do have the option to refuse reimbursement and use travel expenses as a tax deduction instead.

Wapiti works as your travel agent to coordinate and arrange your lodging for each placement. We are well-known for being accommodating and flexible. In the event that issues arise while traveling, Wapiti provides a 24/7 toll-free number that we guarantee will be answered. Our number one goal is to make it easy for you to get to work and enjoy your location without any additional stressors.


It is only natural to consider your family and other local commitments when thinking of becoming a traveling provider. The beauty of being an independently contracted practitioner means you are your own boss. You have the ultimate say in your schedule and can decide how long to be away from home and how often you want to travel. You will often have the option to schedule shifts back-to-back, allowing you to spend larger amounts of time at home with your family. Another option is to bring your family with you to explore the region while you work. While this is not always possible, sometimes (depending on the size of your family and the facility you are working with) it can be accommodated and be a fun adventure for the whole family.

calculator and financial paperwork

4. The Financial Sides of Locum

Your pay schedule will vary depending on your staffing company, but it is fair to expect a consistent schedule every month. A few questions to ask are:

  • Am I paid via direct deposit or with a physical check mailed directly to me?
  • How does the agency track my shifts?
  • What if there are issues? How are problems resolved?

Wapiti pays providers via direct deposit, eliminating any hassles around payday. We build providers’ confidence in their businesses by delivering accurate payments as scheduled.


At Wapiti, the annual income potential for a health care practitioner who works “full-time” (which we define as only 10 shifts per month) can be in excess of $250,000. This varies depending on rate of pay and shift length.


Wapiti will cover your malpractice insurance through our A rated malpractice carrier. Whether you are part-time or full-time, we make sure that your malpractice tail coverage is provided. Our policy limits are $1-3 million.


When you work locum tenens, you will likely be doing business as a 1099 contractor. This means you will be your own business (and your own boss!). You will need to decide whether to establish your business as a sole-proprietorship, LLC or corporate entity. There are different tax advantages and business reasons associated with each type. To obtain the best information and advice given your specific situation, we recommend consulting your accountant or an attorney.


When entering into business contracts as your own entity, the staffing agency with whom you contract might not withhold taxes or provide you with the same employee benefits you received as a W-2 employee. In those instances, items such as health insurance, retirement (401K), long-term and short-term disability, and paid time off will become your responsibility.


There are numerous tax advantages when you establish your own business. Some of these include writing off your mileage when traveling for work and even deducting some business expenses. Because there are many rules and regulations, both federal and in your home state, we recommend you visit the following resources to learn more:

Business federal tax information:

Small business federal tax information: 

Business state tax information:

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5. The Wapiti Process

Wapiti specializes in placing locum providers in communities throughout the Midwest. Our strength is covering Clinic, ER, Hospitalist, Urgent Care and Anesthesia with quality physicians, advanced practice providers (PA/NP), and CRNA. Our motivation has always been and continues to be maintaining close relationships with our practitioners and partner facilities. When you partner with Wapiti as a locum tenens practitioner,  we provide you with flexible scheduling, credentialing assistance, malpractice coverage, travel and housing assistance, and staff available 24/7 to assist you.


Our Recruitment Team will be your first source of information as you dip your toes into becoming an independent practitioner. From pay rate to placement location and schedule, our Recruitment Team will guide you every step of the way.


After you come on board, you will work with our Credentialing Team to obtain the facility privileges needed to add you to the schedule. We will even help you apply for state licenses.


The Scheduling Team will be your long-term partner and manage all details around your placement(s). Your designated Account Manager/Scheduler will answer any questions you have as you take your first assignment and throughout your time with Wapiti.

24/7 Assistance

When you are on location and have questions or issues, or even when you are home and curious about something — our 24/7 toll-free number is available for you. We never leave our providers hanging without answers or the resources needed to ensure success.

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Locum tenens and permanent positions for physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and CRNA.