Temporary medical practitioners fill staff needs

April 8, 2013

Health care organizations are using temporary nurse practitioners and physician assistants to fill the gaps in their medical staffs associated with the nationwide physician shortage, especially in primary care, according to a survey of 2012 staffing trends.

Hospitals, medical groups, and other health care organizations are using temporary nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to fill the gaps in their medical staffs associated with the nationwide physician shortage, especially in primary care, according to a survey of 2012 staffing trends.

Staff Care’s 2013 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends found that nationwide requests for NPs and PAs in calendar year 2012 grew to 10% of all requests for temporary staffing days, compared with 2% in 2010. Seventy-four percent of health care providers surveyed reported employing temporary labor in the past year. Twenty-four percent of temporary service days were for primary care, including family practice, general internal medicine, and pediatrics.

Health care facilities and medical practices are using temporary NPs and PAs when they cannot fill permanent positions, to supplement their physician staffs, or to replace physicians who have left. The survey pointed out that although demand for these practitioners is high, the supply is limited and already there are signs of a shortage. Currently there are 155,000 NPs and 83,000 PAs in the United States; however, the survey projects a 20% deficit of these advanced practitioners by 2025.

Health care providers use the flexibility of contingent labor to maximize staffing for the ebb and flow of their employment models. Clinicians who accept temporary staffing assignments favor the freedom and flexibility as well as the opportunities for professional development. They identify their ability to maintain continuous patient care in the face of physician shortages as their primary value.

The survey reported that 89% of clinicians who work temporary assignments, including locum tenens physicians, NPs, and PAs, do so through temporary staffing companies.