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March 18, 2024

Locum Tenens vs. Travel Nurse: Differences and Benefits

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Dr. Shefiu Lanre Shittu

President of Daily Care Solutions

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Healthcare providers are running out of time. The United States will have a shortage of 29,400 nurses by 2025. America’s nursing shortage will only get worse as time goes on as Americans get older and develop more health problems. 

That’s why thousands of hospitals, private practices, and other organizations hire locum tenens and travel nurses. If you’re looking for work right now, you can apply for hundreds of different jobs today. 

But before you start filling out applications, you need to break down the differences between and benefits of locum tenens and travel nurses. Here’s your quick locum tenens vs. travel nurse guide.

The Basics of Locum Tenens

Locum tenens positions are temporary jobs for nurses and medical professionals to fill staffing gaps at medical organizations. You may fill the gap left by a doctor on vacation, medical leave, or maternity or paternity leave. Once the doctor comes back, your position ends.

Most locum tenens positions are limited to medical professionals living near the employer. Some descriptions will define geographic boundaries, so read any job description closely so you know whether or not you can apply. 

Related: Exploring The Advantages Of Locum Tenens For Physicians

Pros of Locum Tenens Positions

The main benefit of locum tenens positions is flexibility. Few locum tenens employers impose minimum shift requirements and other conditions that can make your job difficult. You can see how several different hospitals in your area operate and decide which one has the best opportunities for you. 

If you do a good job in a locum tenens position, your employer may offer you a full-time job. Even if you don’t get an offer, you can use your employer as a recommendation and put your job experience on a resume. You can also network with other professionals to know when job opportunities will appear, sometimes before employers post online about them.

If you’re unsure about a long-term medical career, you can use locum tenens positions to see if you like working in medicine. You can also use them as a second income source while working part-time or transitioning to another type of medicine.

The salary for locum tenens jobs varies depending on your qualifications and experience. However, many locum tenens roles pay more than full-time nursing positions. A hospitalist can earn up to $190 an hour, while someone in general surgery can earn up to $1,400 daily. Temporary positions fall under the 1099 tax status for freelancers, so you can qualify for deductions, like work supplies and car maintenance. 

Partnering With Daily Care Solutions

While finding locum tenens jobs can be a little difficult, you can get help from a locum tenens nursing agency. Organizations like Daily Care Solutions can help you apply for jobs, connect with employers, and network within the industry. 

We offer flexible staffing solutions, including permanent placement in hospitals you enjoy working in. We work with a massive network of healthcare institutions in the Midwest, so you will always have options for good jobs. 

Do you want experienced nursing professionals to help you find high-paying and rewarding locum tenens positions? Schedule a consultation with Daily Care Solutions today.

Cons of Locum Tenens

After finishing a locum tenens position, you may not know when your next opportunity will occur. You should always look for work and talk to potential employers about future employment. It is okay to have short gaps in your employment history, but gaps over three months are difficult to explain to employers.

If your area has few hospitals or clinics, you may not have many locum tenens opportunities. You should expand your geographic area or relocate to another place with more jobs.

Staying within a metropolitan area means you qualify for fewer travel perks like credit card rewards and frequent flier programs. Look at a few different credit cards and find one that will give you perks for extensive travel in a city or metropolitan area.

Related: Balancing Careers: Doctors Embracing Part-Time Work

a nurse walking through a train station

The Basics of Travel Nursing

Travel nursing positions are temporary jobs you can apply for regardless of where you live. You can apply for one in another state or part of the country if you meet your employer’s qualifications. A typical contract cycle lasts 13 weeks, but your job may last longer if your employer needs you. 

Both locum tenens and travel nursing jobs are temporary, involve travel, and fulfill short-term staffing needs. In general, travel nursing involves longer excursions, sometimes requiring travel across the country or to Alaska or Hawaii. 

Pros of Travel Nursing

Travel nursing jobs pay very well, though your pay varies depending on where the job is and how much experience you have. In 2021, travel nurses earned an average of $124.96 an hour, roughly three times the hourly rate of staff nurses. 

Many employers will cover the cost of relocating and finding new housing for you. You will also qualify for frequent flier programs with many airlines, giving you access to luxurious amenities like airport lounges. 

You can find specialized jobs in travel nursing, including work in an emergency room. These jobs can help you pick a specialty if you’re new to medicine or if you want to transition from your old job.

Employers hire travel nurses as a last resort when they cannot find employees in their local areas. When you travel to another hospital, you give back to a community in desperate need. Many travel nurses find their work incredibly fulfilling and work for decades across the country. 

You can pick a home base in any part of the country you want. Many nurses like living in a city they can fly or drive out of easily, while others like living in rural areas for peace and quiet. You can also decide to live in the top high-paying states for doctors, such as Tennessee and Kentucky.

Are you ready to start applying for great nursing jobs throughout the Midwest? Contact Daily Care Solutions’s team now.

Cons of Travel Nursing

Some nurses travel across the country several times a year, which can be stressful. Most hospitals will pay for your travel expenses, but you will still need to go through airports and figure out what to do during layovers. 

Some nurses also struggle with their home bases. You may need to pay for an apartment you’re not living in for some or most of the year. You can live without a base, but you may lose out on the comfort of a home.

You must ensure you are licensed to practice medicine in the state you travel to, especially if you’re filling a specialized job. Some states require certificates for emergency room doctors or midwives. Check with your employer before you make your travel arrangements.

a doctor standing by an emergency room

Locum Tenens vs. Travel Nursing: Which One Is Better? 

Many people confuse locum tenens and travel nursing positions because both are short-term nursing positions. The main difference is that locum tenens positions are in your local area, while travel nursing positions can involve interstate or cross-country travel.

You can pursue locum tenens and travel nursing opportunities simultaneously. However, locum tenens jobs are better than travel nursing positions for people looking for short-term work with little to no hassle. They’re also good if you have children or relatives you care for, as you will spend more time with them. Travel nursing is better for people with no dependents who love traveling to different locations. It’s also good for people who want to make a difference in people’s lives. 

Related: Per Diem vs. Locum Tenens: Which One is For You

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Dr. Shefiu Lanre Shittu

President of Daily Care Solutions

Internal Medicine physician with over 10 years of experience in medical staffing solution. Completed medical education and residency in Columbia University. Provided expert oversight to private groups and hospitals. Contracted services organization and Take charge of establishing three hospitalist programs from inception to completion. Develop the scope of practice and negotiate contracts with other departments and specialties. Perform a wide range of tasks including contract negotiations, revenue cycle and human resource management, process improvement, and introduction of interdisciplinary rounding. Drove key efforts toward the reduction of cost of running programs by approximately 15-20%. Identified staffing needs while creating unique staffing plans for programs.

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