Is traveling a normal thing again? Are we ready? Some might say yes, some might say no. However, a post-vaccine America will bring renewed opportunities for moving around the country or going abroad. As a nurse practitioner, you can take advantage of that by working locum jobs.
The demand for NPs who want to travel has only increased during the pandemic. There’s a good chance you might get a job like this in the near future. However, are locum jobs still something you should consider? Let’s talk a little bit about that.
Wait, can a nurse practitioner be a locum tenens worker?
Yes! Some nurse practitioners might be new to this concept, but sure. NPs can take temporary assignments, and sometimes this can lead to great personal growth. Every NP from any specialty can work a locum tenens job.
It has been reported (pre-pandemic) that Primary Care NPs are the biggest in-demand specialty for traveling work, followed by PMHNPs. However, there is demand for NPs of other specialties, and COVID itself might have created demand for certain specialties, perhaps ACNPs, for example.
There are nurse practitioners who work locum tenens jobs exclusively. Not too long ago we spoke with a travel nurse (and part-time instagram influencer) about it. She makes it look like it’s a continuous vacation! And if you play your cards right, it might be.
But what are “locum jobs” exactly? What does that mean?
Well, for the uninitiated, “locum tenens” is a Latin phrase meaning “placeholder.” They are temporary positions that you fill on a given clinical site. Most people just refer to them as locum jobs or travel nursing jobs.
NPs think that locum jobs (usually) require you to travel a long distance. That’s not always the case, but it is very common. It’s still possible to find jobs like this near you, and we’ll get to why that’s relevant later in the article.
You can do a lot of things as a travel nurse, even working as a telemedicine provider!
A locum tenens job will have you either working for yourself, or filling someone else’s job until that provider returns to work.
Locum jobs will also require you to go through an agency. We’ll talk about that more below. Scroll down to near the bottom if you want to see some examples.
Is a locum tenens job worth it in 2021?
Locum jobs have their own set of pros and cons. You don’t have to make the switch entirely, for example. These jobs can help you get some extra shifts if you don’t want to leave your full-time job.
The benefits of working locum jobs, at least according to the agencies, are these:
- Higher salary or earning potential
- More independence
- No office politics
- Choosing your own schedule
- Finding a job that’s the right fit for you
- Accommodation and expenses are covered by the agency or the employer
All of these not a guarantee, but they paint a pretty attractive picture of what it’s like to work as a travel nurse.
We’ll get to the higher salary part below, so keep reading or scroll down to the next section!
The “more independence” thing might not be the case for every NP. Even though you’ll work as an independent contractor, you still have to answer to both your agency and the place you’ll end up working in. It’s pretty relative.
Also, being an independent contractor means you’ll work with a 1099 contract. You will be 100% responsible for your own income and taxes. Some people prefer the comfort of regular employment and W-2 contracts.
On the other hand, you won’t have to worry so much about office politics, that’s for sure. You’ll also be able to choose your own schedule (though this might be less flexible than you think), and you can work at different places to find the right gig for you. These temporary jobs can become permanent.
So yes, locum jobs are still worth it for these reasons. They’re not perfect, but they’re certainly not a burden. If it seems like it’s right up your alley, by all means, go ahead.
How much can you earn working locum jobs as an NP?
Nurse practitioners already make good money, so it’s only natural that locum jobs will pay you a good salary, right?
We could say that yes, this is true, but only partially. Locum jobs are very variable when it comes to compensation. You have to account for your own specialty, subspecialty, location, shifts, the agency you’ll work with… Not every traveling NP gets the same pay.
However, ZipRecuiter reports an annual (base) salary of about $105,347, and we assume that’s for the NPs who are doing locum full-time. Not bad, right?
In terms of hourly salary, it’s been reported that you can make from $50 to $90 an hour, on average, working locum jobs. So there is potential for higher earnings, quite above ZipRecruiter’s estimation.
The guys at ZipRecruiter also mention the fact that they have seen some impressive salaries. Some of the highest salaries they’ve recorded can be as large as $157,000. The majority of travel NP salaries, however, are in the range of $89,000 to $120,000. The only thing missing from ZipRecruiter are the specialties. They seem to treat all travel nurses as the same thing.
So, there you have it. This is what you might earn working locum jobs, plus the personal benefits we described above. Also, there are some company benefits that you can see in the section below.
Best agencies offering locum jobs for NPs
We mentioned earlier that locum agencies usually cover some expenses and provide accommodation. You’ll also find that these agencies can offer some perks like help with malpractice insurance, help with licensing, and so on.
Here are four recommended agencies for locum jobs:
CompHealth: Offers the opportunity to work as a W-2 employee, three different medical plans to choose that are all PPOs. They provide 401(k)s, a company-paid basic life insurance of $10,000, as well as dental insurance, vision insurance and (our favorite) pet insurance.
LocumTenens.com: The very thing we’re talking about is the name of their website. How can you go wrong? However, they seem to be more about matching clinicians with companies using recruiters, like a job portal, so the companies are the ones that will offer you benefits, not them.
Staff Care: Assistance with your license, malpractice insurance and liability protection, and complimentary CMEs. Not too much, but it’s a good start. Staff Care has some good reviews, and they also provide (wait for it) travel and housing accommodations!
VISTA Staffing Solutions: Paid liability insurance, coverage for housing, travel, and transportation. They also offer help with licensing and credentialing. The most interesting thing about VISTA might be that they contract with facilities run by the government, so you might get the chance to work specifically with veterans or minority communities, for example. They also offer work in private institutions, so there’s a lot of room for you to find the perfect gig.
Living the locum lifestyle
Aside from these four giants, there’s a lot of competition for agencies like this out there.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly which are the best agencies for NPs and other clinicians, but if you want to work locum jobs, CompHealth and the others are a great starting point to get a feeling of what the travel nursing life it’s all about.
Another great resource for you to get acquainted with locum tenens, or learn more if you’re already considering it, is the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO).
We already said that working locum jobs is totally worth it, but this word, “lifestyle,” is also important. It’s more than just a different type of side gig, or contract. You have to enjoy moving around.
With this in mind, we wouldn’t recommend just focusing on the money. The real indicator of whether locum tenens positions are worth it or not is you, your needs, and your wishes! However, we want to reiterate that these jobs are projected to grow, especially since the pandemic is still a long way from being over.
Who knows, maybe it’s time you took that workcation.