Choosing to become a locum Physician Assistant (PA) is a unique and rewarding career choice. As a locum tenens PA, you have the opportunity to work as a healthcare professional on a temporary or contract basis across a diverse range of healthcare settings. These settings may include hospitals, clinics, private practices, and more. The duration of a locum position can vary from a few weeks to several months, depending on the employer’s needs. These needs may include maintaining a busy clinic’s operations while a PA or physician is on medical or maternity leave, among other reasons.

Locum Physician Assistant Roles and Responsibilities

Locum Physician Assistant measuring patient's blood pressure in a hospital setting with stethoscope. Overview of Locum PA roles and responsibilities.

Locum Physician Assistants (PAs) provide temporary medical services in settings where permanent staff may be unavailable. As locum PA, they seamlessly step into diverse medical environments, taking on responsibilities such as diagnosing illnesses, performing physical exams, prescribing medications, and assisting in surgeries. Their adaptability and extensive medical training make them invaluable assets, filling gaps and ensuring continuous high-quality patient care. When medical facilities have short-term staffing needs or require specialized skills, locum PAs are often the preferred solution, highlighting the importance of their unique roles and responsibilities in healthcare.

How Do PAs Get Paid For Locum Tenens Work?

PAs (Physician Assistants) receive compensation for locum tenens work through a streamlined process. Typically, the locum tenens agency, after contracting with healthcare facilities, agrees on a compensation rate for the PA’s services. Following banking verification, the agency disburses the payment either through direct deposit or check on a weekly or bi-weekly basis depending on the agency. The compensation often factors in the PA’s experience, the complexity of the assignment, geographic location, and the duration of the locum tenens position.

When it comes to compensation for locum tenens work, the specifics depend on the agency. Some agencies compensate locum PAs on a contract basis using a 1099, paying per hour worked. Others, however, hire locum PAs as employees with a W-2, providing them with benefits such as 401K contributions and health insurance. Additionally, many agencies cover the cost of travel, lodging, medical malpractice insurance, credentialing, licensing, and more.

Advantages of Working as a Locum PA

Working as a locum Physician Assistant (PA) offers a range of compelling advantages that attract healthcare professionals seeking flexibility, diverse experiences, and competitive compensation. One of the primary benefits is the exposure to a wide array of clinical settings. Locum PAs have the opportunity to work in hospitals, clinics, urgent care centers, and specialty practices, allowing them to broaden their knowledge and skill set by encountering a diverse range of medical cases. This exposure not only enhances their clinical expertise but also makes them adaptable and confident in tackling various healthcare challenges.

Another significant advantage is the flexibility that locum tenens work provides. Locum PAs have the freedom to choose assignments that align with their preferences and lifestyle. This flexibility extends to both work hours and location, enabling them to strike a balance between professional commitments and personal pursuits. Whether seeking short-term engagements or longer placements, locum PAs can tailor their schedules to meet their needs, making this career path particularly appealing to those who value autonomy.

Financial incentives also make locum PA positions appealing. Due to the temporary nature of their work, locum PAs often receive higher hourly rates compared to their full-time counterparts. This increased compensation can provide financial stability and the means to save for future goals, such as continuing education, personal investments, or travel. Additionally, locum PAs often receive compensation for travel, accommodation, and malpractice insurance, further contributing to their financial well-being. According to recent data from ZipRecruiter, a locum Physician Assistant in the United States can expect to earn an annual average salary of $121,952 a year.

Moreover, working as a locum PA facilitates networking and professional growth. The exposure to different healthcare teams and professionals allows locum PAs to build a strong network in the medical field. These connections can open doors to future job opportunities, collaborative projects, and even mentorship. By constantly engaging with diverse medical professionals, locum PAs can stay updated on industry trends and best practices, ensuring their continued growth and success in the ever-evolving field of healthcare.

Challenges and Considerations for Locum PAs

While being a locums PA offers numerous benefits, it also presents certain challenges:

One of the primary challenges faced by locums PAs is the necessity to adapt quickly to new clinical environments. Moving from one facility to another exposes them to different protocols, electronic health record systems, and team dynamics. This adaptability requirement can be demanding, particularly for individuals who thrive in stable work environments. The pressure to perform effectively and efficiently, while dealing with new colleagues and patients, can be mentally and emotionally taxing.

The lack of continuity in patient care is another significant consideration for locum PAs. In contrast to permanent positions where healthcare professionals can establish long-term relationships with patients, locum PAs often have limited time to build rapport. Continuity is crucial for effective patient care and can be challenging to achieve in temporary roles. Establishing trust and effectively communicating medical information within a short timeframe is a skill that locum PAs must continuously refine.

Frequent travel and potential relocations are also challenges inherent to the locum PA role. Depending on assignments, these professionals may need to travel extensively, which can disrupt family life and personal commitments. The transient nature of locum work can create a sense of instability, making it essential for individuals to weigh the benefits of diverse experiences against the potential strains on their personal lives. Moreover, navigating the varied credentialing processes required by different healthcare facilities can be cumbersome and time-consuming, adding another layer of complexity to the role.

Being a locum Physician Assistant offers a unique career path for healthcare professionals seeking diversity, flexibility, and personal growth. Despite the challenges, the benefits of working as a locum PA are substantial, from gaining diverse clinical experiences to enjoying competitive compensation. To succeed in this role, aspiring locum PAs should cultivate adaptability, build a strong network, manage their time effectively, invest in continuous education, and embrace challenges as opportunities for personal and professional development. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, locum PAs will play an increasingly important role in delivering quality patient care and filling staffing needs across a range of medical settings.


What is a locum Physician Assistant (PA)?

A locum PA is a medical professional who temporarily fills in for regular PAs, often working in various healthcare settings like hospitals, clinics, and private practices on short-term contracts.

Why choose to be a locum PA?

Being a locum PA offers flexibility in schedule, exposure to diverse healthcare environments, potential for higher earnings, and opportunities to travel or try out different work settings before settling.

How do I become a locum PA?

To become a locum PA, you must first be a licensed Physician Assistant. Then, you can register with locum tenens agencies, which will match you with temporary PA positions based on your qualifications and preferences.

How long are the typical assignments?

Assignments can range from a few days to several months. The duration often depends on the facility’s needs and your availability.

Is the pay competitive for locum PAs?

Generally, locum PAs can earn competitive, if not higher, salaries compared to permanent positions, especially when considering benefits like housing and travel allowances offered for certain assignments.

Can I choose where I want to work?

Yes, locum PAs have the flexibility to select which assignments they take on, allowing them to choose locations and settings that fit their preferences and career goals.

What are the primary roles and responsibilities of a locum PA?

A locum PA’s responsibilities align with those of regular PAs, including diagnosing, treating, and counseling patients, performing procedures, and sometimes even supervising medical staff, depending on the setting.

Do I need malpractice insurance?

While some agencies or facilities provide malpractice insurance, it’s advisable for locum PAs to secure their own coverage to ensure comprehensive protection.

How do I find locum PA jobs?

The most effective way to find locum PA opportunities is through locum tenens agencies, which specialize in connecting medical professionals with temporary positions. Regularly checking their job listings and maintaining an updated profile can help in getting suitable matches.

How does the application process work with locum tenens agencies?

After registering with a locum tenens agency, you’ll typically submit your credentials, resume, and preferences. The agency then matches you with suitable opportunities, assists with credentialing, and facilitates the contract process.

Are there any additional costs or fees for me when working with a locum agency?

Typically, locum tenens agencies do not charge the PA. Instead, they earn through agreements with healthcare facilities. Always review agency policies before committing.

Can I work as a locum PA if I’m a new graduate?

Yes, new graduates can work as locum PAs. However, some positions may require experience. It’s essential to discuss your qualifications with the agency to find suitable placements.

How often will I need to travel?

Travel frequency depends on assignment length and your preferences. Some PAs choose back-to-back short-term assignments across various locations, while others may opt for longer assignments in one place.

What support can I expect while on an assignment?

Most locum tenens agencies offer 24/7 support for their PAs, addressing any concerns or issues related to the assignment, housing, or travel.

How do locum opportunities differ in rural vs. urban settings?

Rural areas may have a higher demand due to limited local healthcare resources, offering unique experiences compared to urban settings, which might offer more specialized roles.

What’s the typical onboarding process for a locum PA when entering a new facility?

Onboarding varies but generally includes an orientation to the facility, EMR system training, and introductions to key staff.

The recruiters at TheraEx Locums can help you find the right locum PA position and prepare you for success during your assignment. Contact us today!

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