How to Negotiate Locum Rates & Maximize your Pay

7 Tips to Help You Negotiate the Best Locum Tenens Rate

It’s no secret that one of the top reasons medical care providers seek locum tenens jobs is to supplement their income, but more and more, we are seeing medical care providers use locum tenens as their full-time career choice.

There is a common misconception that a permanent position might offer more compensation.

However, the physician shortage continues to grow, with a shortage of up to 139,000 physicians expected by 2033, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

So there is a huge demand to fill vacant positions and often with urgent need to meet the demands of patient care.

Locum tenens work also offers physicians the chance to work in regions or fields that pay more and provides the opportunity to negotiate.

That all means working as a locum tenens provider could potentially help you be paid even more than your peers while giving you the flexibility that so many of our providers are seeking.

So what’s the best way to make sure you maximize your locum tenens pay rate?

Below is an overview of locum rates and tips on how to negotiate locum rates:

What determines locum tenens pay rates

The hourly or daily rates of locum tenens are driven largely by market demand.

The current shortage of physicians working in your speciality, how quickly a facility needs the locum, and the type of shifts needed all factor into the Locum Tenens pay rate.

That said, as a locum you have control over a number of factors that could boost your pay rate, including:

  • Location of the assignment(s) you accept
  • Your skill set and specialties
  • Availability
  • Length of commitment
  • Experience
  • Shifts you’re willing to work (i.e. nights or weekends)

There is always room for negotiation, so read on for tips on how to maximize your pay rate:

TIP 1: Know what you’re looking for before negotiation

Ultimately, you are in full control of your work as a locum.

Long before you head into negotiations, or an offer is ever presented, you need to decide your priorities and what your bottom line will be.

What would a dream job offer look like? How much are you willing to compromise on (and what is a dealbreaker for you)?

The answers are different for everyone, which is actually a good thing. Not all providers are simply negotiating based on rate, so you don’t need to lower your rate to get a competitive job.

Which, if any, of these are non-negotiable for you?

  • Location: Staying within 25 miles of my home
  • Facility: Working at a particular hospital, physician group, or other facility
  • Consistency: Ongoing or long-term shifts available
  • Pay rate

If you can rank-order these in terms of priority, it makes the negotiating process much easier for both you and the facility. Remember, they need you. It’s just a matter of finding the best fit.

TIP 2: Increase your availability

Locums have the freedom to choose when they want to work, as well as how often they would like to work. The more flexible you are about your schedule, though, the better positioned you are to earn a higher salary.

Consider the following questions:

  1. Are you available to work during the day on weekdays?
  2. Are you available to work night shifts on weekdays?
  3. Are you available to work night shifts on weekends?
  4. Are you available to work on holidays?
  5. Are you willing to take on-call shifts?

Permanent staff usually do not want these shifts, and they are hard-to-staff positions for the facility, so the more of these questions you say yes to, the more a facility may pay you as an hourly or daily rate to cover these kinds of shifts.

TIP 3: Be flexible on location

An estimated 90 percent of U.S. healthcare facilities use locum tenens providers, with positions available in all 50 states, from small rural practices to large healthcare facilities in major cities.

Many doctors prefer to work closer to cities, so rural areas can struggle to acquire and retain permanent staff. That places a higher demand for locum tenens doctors in those areas.

As a result, rural facilities usually offer more money to locum tenens providers. Keep in mind that these rates will be adjusted for the regional cost of living.

For example, a rural facility in Arkansas will pay less overall than an urban facility in New York, but when compared to the cost of living you will often find the rural facilities are more generous when it comes to hourly rate.

However, if rural areas are not appealing to you, there are many desirable (and well-paying) job opportunities near cities.

TIP 4: Build lasting relationships

Like any job and the opportunity for raises over time, the longer you work for a particular facility or agency, the higher salary you may be able to negotiate.

Establish yourself as an excellent, reliable, and easy-to-work-with physician, and the hospital or agency will want to continue working with you as long as possible.

Committing to staying at the same facility for a longer period of time or accepting ongoing positions may increase your salary.

Likewise, if you build a loyal relationship with a locum staffing agency and continue to accept new assignments, this may also help you maximize your pay or other benefits.

TIP 5: Show off your experience

Like all jobs, experience matters. The more experience you have providing care, and the better reputation you’ve built, the more appealing you will be to facilities looking to hire.

And opportunity grows, too. If you build a reputation as a dependable locum, you will continue to benefit from that kind of experience.

Don’t worry–physicians of all experience levels can still find well-paying locum jobs.

If you are fresh out of residency and interested in working at a locum tenens job for the first time, this is a great way to build an impressive and varied resume, make more money and/or have more flexibility early in your career.

PRO TIP: Add a section to your resume for “Licenses and Credentials” that features any active state licenses or special certification numbers you have, the license number, and expiration date. You’d be surprised how many providers omit this from their resume!

Some healthcare providers work locum tenens jobs in addition to their full-time jobs. That could mean simply picking up additional shifts on weekends to earn more money, expand your network or focus on keeping skills sharp.

Some physicians are nearing retirement, and prefer the flexibility of a more custom schedule and the perks of traveling. These veteran physicians tend to have the highest average locum salaries.

TIP 6:Consider the overall compensation package

While pay rate is often a make-or-break part of negotiations, don’t forget: Your compensation as a locum can and should include more than pay.

The overall sense of freedom is something that our providers often cite as a major benefit: The freedom to choose when, where, and how often you work.

You could travel to and explore a city you’ve always wanted to visit, or you could expand your resume and professional network.

Here are a few additional aspects that may be up for negotiation:

  • Housing: Who arranges and pays for housing? If lodging is being provided for you, then what kind (i.e. motel, hotel, condo)?
  • Travel: Who arranges for any travel needed to the location and during your assignment? Who pays for the associated costs for flights, rental cars or mileage?
  • Malpractice insurance and the specific type provided: The best scenario would be that you are provided with occurrence-based malpractice insurance (or, alternately, tail coverage) to make sure you are protected if a claim is filed after your policy ends.
  • Meals and incidentals: Are you provided with a food allowance or a per diem for meals?
  • Will the facility pay a premium for working additional hours or picking up weekend shifts?

TIP 7: Ask for what you want

Negotiating pay may not come easy for everyone, and it often leads to fear and anxiety for many people who haven’t used this skill very often. However, it’s important to speak up and ask for what you want. You never know what you can get if you don’t ask for it. In fact, many locum agencies are asked to “bid” on the job with a qualified candidate, so the rate is truly up for negotiation.

You cannot blindly throw out any amount you want to be paid, though.

Here are a few general tips for skillful negotiation to get the best compensation:

  • Before an offer, write down what’s important to you and what’s non-negotiable. Keep that piece of paper near you while you speak with the hiring manager or recruiter.
  • Research the average salary of physicians with the same speciality. Make sure to factor in your desired geographical area, too, because that affects the average salary.
  • You will likely have a salary range you’re willing to accept. Ask for a salary on the higher end of that range and give yourself wiggle room to still end up with a salary you’re happy with.
  • Practice makes perfect. Rehearse your negotiation in the mirror, on a video or with a friend until you feel comfortable that you can clearly articulate your expectations.
  • Have confidence. The worst case scenario is you are told no, but that’s better than never trying to get a higher locum tenens salary.

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