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Locum Tenens Medical Staffing: A First Responder when Disaster Strikes


Much has been written about the locum tenens medical staffing industry (1), which does billions of dollars of business in the domestic United States. Much less attention, with some exception (2), is paid to the locum tenens medical professionals who respond immediately to disasters, helping provide professional medical care where it is needed the most. In this way the medical recruiting and staffing industry helps the nation and the world when it needs it the most, aiding the initial recovery efforts in areas that are often reeling after a disaster.

Indeed, locum tenens medical professionals were among the first to respond to last year’s disastrous earthquake in Haiti. With almost every building, including hospitals, destroyed in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, professionals from medical staffing agencies were immediately dispatched to begin triaging the hundreds of thousands of casualties caused by the earthquake (2).

In many ways, medical workers employed by locum tenens medical recruiting agencies are the best to respond to disaster. As temporary workers, they are used to going into difficult areas that are under-resourced and under-staffed. They’re used to changing environments and circumstances and their ability to quickly adjust gives them an advantage that other medical professionals don’t have.

For medical professionals in the United States who are interested in responding to disasters, it is important to sign up to work with a medical staffing agency prior to a disaster striking to gain experience working in different settings and to be on the rolls when a situation arises.

While highly adaptive, locum tenens medical professionals who respond to disasters need to be trained like everyone else so they can cope with the trauma, chaos, and sparse conditions disaster areas usually feature. Most importantly, they need to know when they’ve done as much as they can do, as there is seemingly always a crisis area in the world that needs medical help. Medical staffing and recruiting agencies can continue to help here, with the flexibility of having hundreds of medical professionals on call to avoid potential burnout among those in the field.

And, if the disasters of the past decade are any indication, healthcare recruiting and staffing agencies will continue to send out medical professionals to assist on the front lines of disasters. In Haiti, medical professionals from locum tenens medical staffing agencies were often escorted by the military to specific areas in need. Domestically, medical staffing agencies helped provide medical professionals in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (2). Physician staffing agencies are thus helping to fulfill humanitarian needs as well as those of business.

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