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March 20, 2023

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

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Dr. Shefiu Lanre Shittu

President of Daily Care Solutions

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Many people confuse per diem with locum tenens because they are similar. But these two ways to be paid for your medical expertise are quite different. This article will explain the critical differences between the per diem vs. locum tenens and how they may benefit you.

85% of healthcare facilities utilize per diem, and locum tenens work to cover shortages each year. By understanding more about these job opportunities, you’ll be able to find which one is best for you and your schedule.

What Per Diem Means

Per Diem is a fancy Latin term for a contract position that is at-will and on-call. When the work is stated as per diem, the hours aren’t guaranteed, and the medical professional must be flexible with this type of contract work.

When you are hired for per diem assignments, you are a freelance contractor that they will use as they need and may not have a fixed schedule during the assignment. This means the healthcare facility could end the contract or reduce your hours as patient load or need for your specialty wanes.

What Locum Tenens Means

Locum tenens assignments are temporary or substitute jobs where the medical professional has a set commitment to a healthcare facility and can often be full-time work. The physician will have a clearly defined assignment that will designate:

  • Location
  • Types of Shifts, whether that’s weekends, monthly, or during demand spikes like on holidays
  • Pay rate
  • Additional benefits and accommodations

Related Link: About Daily Care Solutions

Assessing Key Differences between Locum Tenens vs. Per Diem

There are a few key differences that will help you assess which type of contract work you prefer:

Contract vs. Pick Up

Per diem work can be picked up by a medical professional based on the facility’s needs. Locum tenens is a signed contract of agreed terms of work where the physician will fulfill the designated shifts for a set period of time.

Patient Load

burnt out doctor

Per diem is usually offered when the patient load is high or certain specialties are needed. But the per diem work will end as demand reduces. In locum tenens assignments, the physician is often substituting to give other doctors a break or is filling in because the facility is short on staff and needs their medical expertise for the entire designated timeframe regardless of patient load.


Per diem opportunities can be picked up from most healthcare facilities, which are more prevalent for most medical professions. Locum tenens opportunities are generally offered in rural, remote, or underprivileged areas that lack access to physicians and specific specialties. In these assignments, professionals would need to travel to perform the work.

Advantages of Locum Tenens

Physicians choose locum tenens jobs for these common advantages:

  • Offering their expertise and specialty services to rural, remote, and underprivileged areas.
  • Being exposed to different pathology, populations, or cultures.
  • Relieving hardworking, overworked physicians.
  • Receiving competitive pay and excellent benefits for a temporary designated assignment.
  • Wanting a change of pace from where they are currently practicing.
  • Experiencing a new place to live for the temporary assignment.
  • Saving more money because many living and traveling costs for the assignment are frequently covered.
  • Enjoying more schedule flexibility.
  • Avoiding office politics and management headaches.
  • Avoiding physician burnout.

Wanting to try a locum tenens assignment to see if it’s right for you? Contact us to get started in locum tenens work.

Related Link: Daily Care Solutions Careers

Advantages of Per Diem

doctors looking at xray

Here are the advantages of per diem work for medical professionals:

  • The flexibility to pick up per diem work as you choose when convenient.
  • Choosing the facility where you work because many healthcare facilities have per diem shifts.
  • Allowing you to create your own schedule rather than being assigned a set schedule.
  • Adding supplemental income as you choose.
  • Staying in the same area because there is generally enough per diem work from various facilities.

Disadvantages of Locum Tenens

There are a few disadvantages to locum tenens jobs you should be aware of before taking an assignment:

  • Physicians must be responsible for paying and filing taxes on any gain from locum tenens assignments.
  • Locum tenens assignments do not provide personal healthcare insurance for the physician.
  • Full-time locum tenens work can come with some job instability because the assignments are for a set period of time, which can create gaps in your schedule between assignments.
  • Moving from assignment to assignment can make it challenging to set down roots, especially if you have a family.

Disadvantages of Per Diem

There are a few disadvantages to per diem work that may influence whether it is right for you:

  • Provides inconsistent work because the shifts ebb and flow with demand.
  • Has less job security because the contract position is at will and not for a set term.
  • It doesn’t have the same benefits or community support as working full-time.

Which is Better: Locum Tenens or Per Diem?

Deciding whether locum tenens vs. per diem is better for you is a personal choice. It comes down to your personal work preferences and the level of autonomy you prefer. You’ll want to consider both styles and maybe even try both types of work before you decide.

If you like taking assignments for a set period of time in a specific location, then locum tenens would be a good fit. If you prefer to stay in your preferred area but pick up shifts and don’t mind the inconsistency, then per diem may be more your style.

Per Diem vs. Locum Tenens: It is a Personal Preference

Both per diem and locum tenens opportunities provide healthcare professionals with additional ways to supplement their income or create their own schedules. Both offer flexibility and a change of pace that appeal to many who would prefer to be their own boss. Choosing per diem vs. locum tenens is a personal preference, where only you can decide which fits your professional work style best.

If you want to try locum tenens work, you’ll want to learn more about Daily Care Solutions. We connect healthcare facilities with top-rate locum tenens physicians and specialists. With an impressive 98% retention rate, we create a positive locum tenens experience for the physicians that utilize our services.

Related Link: Daily Care Solutions Metrics

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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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