The Rise of the Gig Economy in Healthcare

19th Oct 2022

asian woman doctor and black patient

Key Takeaways

  • The healthcare industry has seen a surge in locum tenens physicians.
  • Locum tenens jobs typically pay 33 to 50 percent more per hour than a permanent position.
  • A Defined Benefit plan is an ideal retirement solution for locum tenens medical practitioners who don’t have an employee-sponsored retirement.

The gig economy, which are jobs performed by workers who are independent contractors, became more widespread as the COVID-19 pandemic led more employees to leave traditional full-time jobs. The shift toward a gig-dependent economy is expected to continue amid the great resignation and quiet-quitting trend.

According to Gallup, about 36% of US workers are part of the gig economy through their primary or secondary jobs. Upwork statistics show that the number of independent workers is growing three times faster than the total US working population, indicating a positive trend.

Locum Tenens Physicians Fill a Gap

One industry that has seen a surge in gig economy workers in the past few years is healthcare – there is a shortage of physicians and other practitioners in the medical field, which is causing a temporary need for medical clinicians. Locum tenens physicians have filled the gap for physicians looking to practice where they are needed the most, especially during the pandemic.

locum tenens provider is a physician or medical practitioner who works temporarily at another medical practice. Locum tenens has become a thriving alternative that offers flexibility and more compensation – locum tenens jobs typically pay 33 to 50 percent more per hour than a permanent position. More physicians are shifting to locum tenens because of the high pay, which increased drastically during the pandemic.

The demand for locum tenens physicians will continue to rise because of a growing physician shortage, combined with more Americans gaining access to care under the Affordable Care Act.  Eighty-five percent of healthcare facilities used locum tenens in 2020 to fill shortage gaps. More physicians are shifting to locum tenens because of the high compensation and flexible schedule.

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Compensation for Locum Tenens

There are many reasons for the rebound in demand and compensation for medical treatment: patients are less cautious about seeking care and postponed procedures are becoming more common amid the waning pandemic. Many locum tenens specialties that have been trending upward in 2022 include anesthesiology, neurological surgery, pediatric anesthesiology, and urology.

Here’s a look at how much locum tenens specialists are getting paid:

Anesthesiologist pay is $238-$275 an hour.

Cardiovascular Diseases
This specialty saw a jump from $125-200 in 2021 to $175-200 hourly in 2022. Physicians specializing in cardiovascular diseases are typically in very high demand. There are more long-term locum tenens jobs available in 2022 than previous years.

Pediatric Anesthesiology
Locum tenens pediatric anesthesiologists saw a big jump in locum pay from $238-$275 hourly in 2021 to $263-$313 hourly in 2022. Pediatric anesthesiologists are in especially high need, with the number of open jobs tripling from the past year.

Locum tenens urologists saw a jump in compensation from $1,100-$1,500 daily in 2021 to $1,500-$1,800 daily in 2022. Urologists are in high demand due to a severe physician shortage.

Critical Care Medicine
Compensation for critical care medicine is $225-$275 an hour.

Emergency Medicine
While the pandemic negatively affected locum tenens pay for emergency medicine physicians in 2020 and 2021, locum tenens pay has rebounded to $100-$300 per hour in 2022

This specialty pays $1,800-$2,000 daily.

General Surgery
Demand has jumped for this specialty and compensation is $1,000-$1,400 per hour.

Neurological Surgery
Compensation is $2,000-2,500 daily – vascular neurologist (stroke) compensation is up to $5,000 daily)

Orthopedic Surgery
Compensation for locum tenens orthopedic surgeon is $1,200-$1,500 daily.

Cardiac Surgery
This is a top-paying specialty with high demand – compensation for cardiac surgeons is $2,000-$2,500 daily.

Defined Benefit Plans for Locum Tenens

For locum tenens workers, financing a retirement on your own – without a company matching contributions – can be difficult.

Defined Benefit plans allow high-income locum tenens physicians to make the largest IRS approved tax-deductible contributions each year, which is often $150,000 or more.

The contributions are fully tax deductible, which allow for large savings in taxes. Investments grow tax-deferred, building wealth faster than a taxable investment. Defined Benefit plans have higher contribution limits and may be ideal for gig economy workers and small business owners. For instance, a 52-year-old physician who earns $305,000 a year could accumulate $2.67 million in 10 years with a Defined Benefit plan.

Get a free estimate and see how much you can save with our Defined Benefit calculator.

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