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Independent Contractor, Locum Tenens & Permanent Healthcare Positions

There has long been a debate surrounding temporary and permanent employment in practically every industry. Both employment types have their ups and downs, and there will inevitably be professionals who are better suited for one or the other, based on what factors are most important to them. 


When it comes to choosing a healthcare position, there are a few different forms of employment that you must consider. Healthcare professionals typically have the option of working as independent contractors, as locum tenens workers or as permanent employees. There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and it is important to be well-versed on these aspects in order to make the decision that makes the most sense for you, and to avoid any surprises down the road. 


If you are trying to decide between these three employment types, keep reading! 


Independent Contractors


Independent contractors are their own ‘business entity’ and are not considered employees of the healthcare facility that they work at, but are rather in a sort of business relationship with them. In the rise of the ‘gig economy’, as well as the uncertainty and instability of certain industries as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, contractual work can often be an attractive – or in many cases, necessary – option. Contract positions offer flexibility, income without any tax withholdings, and the ability to write off business expenses, such as travel and food.


Independent contractors are fairly common and can be seen in many different healthcare fields, but in some cases, the relationship can pose complications for healthcare facilities and consistency of patient care. Because independent contractors are not bound to the place they work at, they don’t technically have any allegiance to the facility, which can sometimes become a point of contention. For example, California recently thwarted independent contractors in physical and occupational therapy, nurse practitioners, radiation therapy and more, in order to protect employers from conflicts of interests or workers suddenly leaving the business relationship.


That being said, independent contractors can be very valuable assets to healthcare facilities and this type of work should not be discredited. 


Locum Tenens


In the same vein as independent contractors, locum tenens workers are contract employees who fill a role on a temporary basis; the term locum tenens literally translates to ‘to hold a place’. Locum tenens employees are a great resource when facilities are experiencing talent shortages, to cover leaves of absences of permanent employees, or to supplement periods of growth or overwhelm. Professionals who value a certain level of flexibility and variety in their work tend to seek out locum tenens positions, as contracts can range in length from a few days to a few months. Physicians, nurses and advanced practitioners are perhaps the fields which use locums tenens workers the most, but this kind of employment can be seen in virtually any healthcare specialty. 


While there are clear logistical benefits for both the employee and employer in a locum tenens arrangement, there are some aspects to keep in mind when considering this path. Because locum tenens workers are technically contractors, they will have to be prepared to set aside money to pay taxes, and they do not qualify for employee benefits – two factors that can end up costing workers a lot in the long run.


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Permanent Employee


A permanent healthcare employee is just what it sounds like: a professional that is hired as an employee of the company on a full-time, permanent basis. They are employed by the facility, not a staffing agency, and their employment agreement typically does not have a set end-date. If you are interested in finding a more long-term position in a field and facility that you love, permanent employment is the way to go. 


Despite the name, a permanent position does not always mean you will work at the same job forever, but they are almost always going to be longer than a contract job; it “refers to an agreement between the same two parties for an unspecified, indefinite period.” Typically, permanent positions can last several months to several years, but there is no defined length.


There are many benefits to finding a permanent position. Like in most industries, permanent healthcare employees enjoy work benefits, which is possibly one of the most attractive perks. There is also a certain level of security and trust that accompanies a permanent position, and in a somewhat unstable economy, the feeling of job security really cannot be matched. 


Facilities also have a sense of reliability in permanent employees, knowing that they are in it for the long term and are less likely to leave employers in the lurch. There are also more opportunities for career advancement and workplace engagement after you have been a permanent fixture of a team for a certain amount of time, which contract employees might not get to experience. 


Are you looking for a new position in the healthcare industry? Radius specializes in permanent, full-time healthcare recruitment, in the fields of advanced practice, healthcare management, laboratory science, medical imaging, pharmacy, rehab therapy and physicians, at great facilities all across the country. Visit our job board for regularly updated opportunities or email us directly at


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