The word locum-tenen means a person who stands in for someone temporarily. Originally this referred to a physician but its use has broadened to cover CRNA’s and other advanced practice professionals. I have read that the term was introduced in the 1970’s and referred to physicians who would take the place of another physician on a temporary basis. Most likely it was to allow a small town physician to leave and go on vacation while not interrupting the service to these areas.

The original use of a locum was meant to be a temporary solution to a temporary problem. Fast forward to 2022. There is a major staffing crisis that has affected the entire healthcare profession. Many CRNAs as well as other types of providers have left their full time positions to travel and do some type of locum work. Many providers took time off. Others tired of the short staffed situation they were in decided to cash in and take advantage of a currently lucrative market. This led to places who might have been short just a few providers to all of a sudden finding themselves short 4-6 or more, depending on the size of the group. This shortage has specifically put the CRNAs in a position in which they have plenty of leverage to decide what types of shifts they will work, how much call (if any) they will take and command as much pay as the market allows in the area they are searching.

The concern with all of this is that instead of being part of the solution, it may be actually contributing to the problem. For example, Let’s say you are going into a new facility and working a schedule such as Monday through Friday (8) hour shifts with no call and no weekends. Now the others in that group start to become upset because they are doing all the calls, all the weekends and relieving all the locums on a daily basis while they watch you walk out the door. This leads to animosity on their part and if allowed to go on long enough without a solution then more people walk out the door to find the same type of work, further exacerbating the problem. Now I know what you are thinking. The whole reason I went into locum work was to get away from all of that. I completely understand that and I of course did the same.

However, to be a truly effective part of the solution we must try to help when we can. This can mean staying over and helping finish cases when needed. It may mean picking up a call shift if that’s needed. It might mean working a weekend to help out. In order for a locum position to be truly effective it must be beneficial for both provider and facility.

The times I have truly felt like I was part of the solution was when I worked alongside the other full time CRNAs and worked the schedules similar to theirs. It made me realize that not only was I helping do the day to day cases but also helping someone go home. Maybe they got to see their kids’ ballgame because I stayed late instead of them. Maybe they got to have supper with their spouse. It is at these times that I have felt I made the biggest impact.

Am I suggesting you work yourself to death and jump right back into a situation that you just left? Of course not, but we must remember that we are here to solve a problem. We must do our best to be part of a solution!