6 Tips to get Started as a Locum Tenens

Kristen Campbell
Mar. 12, 2024
9-minute read

One of locuming’s biggest benefits is the flexibility that comes with it, but with that flexibility can come more uncertainty and questions about how to best get started as a locum physician. There are plenty of options to choose from, including various locum tenens companies, different types of positions and specializations, and deciding whether you want a short- or long-term role. You can choose to work locally, or halfway around the world.

So, where exactly do you begin once you choose locuming as your career path? Here are six essential tips for locum tenens to help you get started and on your way to success sooner.

1. Choose the type of locum tenens work you want

The first step to getting started as a locum physician is to determine the type of work you want to do and where you want to do it. Is it important for you to stay close to family and friends? In this case, a local focus would likely be best. If you’re interested in new experiences and adventure, you may want to consider locuming abroad.

Local vs. international locuming 

Deciding whether to start your locumming career closer to home or farther afield largely comes down to personal preferences and lifestyle goals, but there are other practical considerations to think about. Doctors working locally might be able to find a great position on a healthcare board or other medical employment opportunity, but if you’re going international, you might need to start looking into different locum tenens agencies and what they can offer your career. 

Long-term stability vs. mobility

When making the decision about where to work, you should also decide how long you want to stay. Are you looking for a stable position that will last several years, or a change for a few months? Will you take the first position you find, or are you determined to be more selective? When you’re searching for a longer-term fit, it may make sense to broaden your horizons. If you’re interested in a shorter term role, it likely means staying closer to home. 

Rural and remote work 

Similar to choosing whether you want to work locally or internationally, the choice between urban, rural, and remote roles will largely depend on personal preferences. However, there’s more to consider than lifestyle. Rural and remote communities tend to foster stronger relationships between physicians and patients, and typically boast a lower cost of living. Northern or rural recruitment programs often offer higher salaries or loan reimbursement for doctors willing to work in underserved areas. 

But, because emergency and specialized medical services are often farther away, locum physicians in rural and remote areas should be comfortable diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions, as well as working within patients’ financial constraints.

2. Where to search for locum tenens placements

Once you decide where you want to work, your next step is to look at available job openings. Even if you’re thinking of going international, your first step might be to look at the job boards for locums in the area. Do they have many openings for your specialization? Are you interested in working in the types of practices that are hiring? If you’re not interested in the type of work available  in a particular area, you may have to consider a different location. 

Websites for finding locum positions

If you’re looking within Canada, there are plenty of online places to search for locum tenens work – for example locumunity,, or general job board sites like Indeed. Government websites and retention programs may also have leads, especially if you’re willing to relocate to areas where your specialization is in demand. 

How long can locum tenens work? 

It depends on the opening! Locum jobs can be coverage for a single afternoon, the duration of a maternity leave, or several years to cover a research term. There’s no time limit on locum positions, so choose one with a timeline that works best for your professional and personal goals. 

3. How to prepare for your locum tenens placement

Congratulations–– you’ve found a promising lead! What now? It’s important to understand the role and whether it’s the right fit for you as a physician and person. 

More than any other medical position, locum work doctors need to thoroughly understand the nature and requirements of a role. Before accepting an offer, ensure you’ve asked the right questions of the facility hiring you and/or the departing physician. Some of these include: How many patients can you expect? What kind of term is the medical practice looking for? How many other doctors will you be working with on a day-to-day basis?

Determine what will be required of you in terms of when you will start your day, the kinds of patients you will be expected to cover, and whether things like your accommodation or travel expenses will be covered by the clinic. Be sure to ask about any specialized or complex patient profiles, as well as important procedures or staffing issues, as this information will be crucial to making your decision and fitting smoothly into your new role.Like any job, it’s important to get what is expected of you in writing before you start. Make sure that both you and the physician you are standing in for are on the same page with the hours of coverage required, the number of patients you’ll be seeing, and any other details about the staffing arrangement. Don’t forget to negotiate. Negotiating locum contracts is common practice, so if there’s something in your contract you’d like to change––speak up.

4. Choose a great locum tenens agency

If you seek work as a locum doctor somewhere outside your local area, you will likely need someone to handle the credentialing process for locum tenens, which is where locum tenens agencies enter the picture.

Companies like Physicians for You or locumunity vet the credentialing requirements for locum tenens and make sure items like your vaccination records, educational qualifications, board certifications, and other crucial pieces of information are up to date so you can legally and smoothly start work in a jurisdiction you may not be familiar with. 

Even local locums may want to consider working with an agency, especially early in your career, as these agencies provide practices with a level of comfort in your qualifications and abilities. Many employers also find it more efficient to hire through trusted agencies rather than overseeing the entire hiring process themselves, particularly for shorter-term roles.

5. Get ready to bill (and get paid!)

Just as important as finding the right role is actually getting paid for the work you do. Medical billing is always complicated, but it can be even more so for locums who are constantly switching between work places and even types of work. 

First, it’s important to enquire about and understand any billing software your employer uses. This should be part of your onboarding training.

If they don’t have a billing system, consider signing up for one yourself. We may be a bit biased, but Dr.Bill is perfectly equipped to make medical billing quicker and easier by helping locums find the right codes, submit claims, handle rejections, and maximize earnings.

6. Don’t forget about taxes 

Once you’ve chosen a new locum tenens role, it’s time to get your tax information in order. Since locums operate as independent contractors, you’ll need to report income earned on your tax return. If you normally take on a salaried role or you are paid through a clinic instead of through direct billing, you may need to register for a sales tax number through your provincial regulatory body. 

If you plan on leaving the country to work as a locum physician, it’s a good idea to research how many days you’re permitted to stay outside the country and what tax preparation steps you can take to prevent you from paying tax in multiple countries. 

Now that you know more about how to get started in your locum practice, it’s easy to make more informed decisions about where you want to work and how to chart a path for personal and professional success. Wherever you want to end up, you can be sure that your time working as a locum will be a great addition to your medical career! For more information on locuming, check out our Ultimate Locum Guide e-book. 

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Kristen Campbell
Kristen Campbell is a content writer with experience writing for technology, real estate, healthcare, and higher education. She holds a BA from McMaster University and a B-Comm. from the University of Calgary, and is passionate about creating content that’s both educational and engaging.
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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBCx or its affiliates.

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