Locum Tenens Credentialing: What Is It and How Long Does It Take?

Locum tenens practitioner

Last Updated June 5, 2023

Locum tenens practitioners value their roles thanks to the freedom and flexibility they provide. Unlike standard healthcare providers, who work for a specific hospital or facility, locum tenens physicians work with medical staffing agencies to contract with facilities that need temporary staffing help.

However, just like full-time physicians must be properly licensed and credentialed, locum tenens providers must also be vetted to ensure they will provide quality care. Here’s what you need to know about this process.

What Is Locum Tenens?

Locum tenens is a term that refers to a healthcare professional who temporarily fills someone else’s duties or responsibilities. In medicine, locum tenens is used to describe a doctor or nurse who “substitutes” for the regular physician at a healthcare facility.

Locum tenens doctors take on temporary roles that can last for days, weeks, or even months when the “regular” practitioner is unavailable because of vacation, maternity leave, or illness.

Locum Tenens Credentialing

Medical staffing agencies and healthcare facilities are both responsible for thoroughly vetting healthcare professionals. Providing unqualified workers to a medical facility in need will ultimately cause more problems for everyone involved.

Credentialing doesn’t mean that the agency has to test candidates’ knowledge or administer licenses. Instead, this process is mostly focused on screening. Credentialing involves staffing agencies vetting the credentials and references of candidates interested in working with them.

A strong locum tenens credential policy doesn’t just weed out unqualified applicants. It also makes it easier to match qualified candidates with work opportunities that are a good fit for their background, experience, and skills.

Locum Tenens Documentation Requirements

To ensure that a medical practitioner is qualified to work in their role as a locum tenens provider, medical facilities require a variety of documents to be verified as part of the credentialing process. According to Dr. Rosmy Barrios, a medical advisor for the Health Reporter, “When applying for locum tenens positions, you will typically need to provide various types of documentation to complete the credentialing process. These documents aim to verify your qualifications, experience, and ensure patient safety.”

Generally speaking, locum tenens physicians, nurses, and physician assistants will need to provide the following documents:

• Medical school diploma
• Board and DEA certifications
• Proof of training (such as residencies or fellowships)
• Medical licenses
• Current certificates (such as BLS, NRP, etc.)
• Proof of vaccination status and negative tuberculosis test
• Photo ID

Other documents may be required depending on the specific needs of the locum tenens agency or its facility partners. For example, Dr. Barrios notes that “many facilities require locum tenens physicians to carry their own malpractice insurance.” Through locum tenens documentation, credentialing teams can verify a physician’s identity and qualifications.

Locum Tenens Credentialing Process: Step-By-Step

The credentialing process for locum tenens involves a few key steps to ensure that a locum tenens practitioner is qualified to work in a particular role.

Step 1: Apply for locum tenens

Naturally, the first step is for a doctor to apply to work with a locum tenens agency. In some instances, staffing agencies may actively recruit candidates who seem like a good fit. This usually requires submitting an updated CV to the staffing agency.

Step 2: Submit and review documents

A physician’s documentation is an essential part of reviewing qualifications, as it confirms that they are able to work for a medical staffing agency’s clients. The credentialing team will reach out to the physician if there are any issues. For example, if a physician is not up to date on their vaccinations, they would receive notice that they will need to address that before beginning work.

Step 3: Notify your references

Professional references from other clinicians are an important part of the credentialing process. For example, former employers (such as program directors) are valuable references when they provide an assessment of a physician’s competence in various practice areas. A physician’s privileges with both their current and former employers should always be in good standing.

Step 4: Discuss with hiring manager

Whoever is tasked with credentialing professionals will usually reach out to physicians to go over any additional information that might be needed, such as discussing the physician’s background, education, and preferences. This is done with the goal of matching a qualified physician with the best-fitting opportunity once credentialing is complete.

How Long Does Locum Tenens Credentialing Take?

After learning how thorough the credentialing process can be, you may be left wondering, how long does credentialing take?

There’s not a one size fits all answer. Depending on the facility, it could take a few days to a few months.  For example, government facilities require rigorous background checks that lengthen the credentialing process. On the other hand, a staffing agency can usually complete credentialing relatively quickly, as long as physicians submit all required paperwork timely and there aren’t any issues with contacting references.

Dr. Barrios states, “The duration of the credentialing process can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of your application, the efficiency of the credentialing organization, and the specific requirements of the facility. It typically takes several weeks to a few months to complete the process, although expedited options may be available in certain situations.”

Physicians who promptly respond to any requests or inquiries – and who let references know to expect a call from a recruiter – can accelerate the process.

Staffing agencies help speed up future locum tenens credentialing by supplying external facilities with information they have already obtained for their own internal credentialing.