Doctors active in the locum tenens arena are all abuzz about a new interstate licensure agreement that could make it easier for them to get licenses in as many as 18 participating states without having to jump through hoops. This is good news throughout the locum spectrum; it is especially good news for emergency medicine locums who tend to travel a lot more than other specialties.
The demand for emergency medicine locums is unusually high due to the nature of the practice. So for a locum to travel between states several times per year is not unusual. A big hindrance thus far has been licensing issues, which have largely fallen on the shoulders of the doctors themselves. The new licensure agreement, known officially as the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, could be a game-changer.
What the Compact Does
The compact is essentially a working agreement between 18 states and their various licensing boards. The participating states include surprise partners Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. Seven additional states and the District of Columbia have all introduced legislation that could eventually see them join the compact.
Under the partnership, doctors already licensed in one of the participating states can be licensed in any of the others without having to submit a formal application or any records. However, there are stipulations. Doctors must already meet certain eligibility requirements. Furthermore, the state in which their primary license was issued must attest to that doctor’s qualifications.
In theory, a locum working in any one of the many hospitals in western Illinois could easily take assignments in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, or South Dakota without having to worry about licensing issues. That would make the doctor’s coverage area a lot larger to the benefit of other hospitals in those states.
How It Helps Emergency Medicine
Proponents of the compact correctly state that the biggest beneficiaries will be locum doctors who practice across state lines. Again, emergency medicine in large metropolitan areas stands to benefit the most. The Upper Midwest has already been cited as one example, but there are others.
Picture an emergency medicine doctor working an assignment in Las Vegas. It is a fairly quick trip over to Phoenix and then up to Salt Lake City and over to Boulder or Denver. Again, these four neighboring states benefit from the compact due to their proximity and willingness to license one another’s doctors.
Unfortunately, states like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are not yet on board. Imagine the implications if they were. You could have a team of emergency medicine locums rotating between hospitals in New York City, Newark, and Stamford – all licensed by all three states without missing a beat. Imagine how that would facilitate getting doctors in out to fill short-term staffing shortages nearly on demand.
A Good Time to Be a Locum
A lot of good things are happening within locum tenens that make now a good time to get into the locum industry. The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact is just one example. The compact is proof that the medical industry and state licensing boards are finally looking at real and effective ways to address doctor shortages beyond mere platitudes and speeches.
Hopefully, the 32 states not yet on board with the compact will see how well it works and eventually enlist themselves. Perhaps we are fast approaching the day when medical licenses are the same as drivers’ licenses in that states agreed to reciprocal recognition. That would really change the way we apply locum medicine both in the emergency room and elsewhere.