13 benefits of working locum tenens in a rural setting in the U.S. or abroad

Farm in United StatesInterested in setting your own hours, working less, spending more time with your family, and spending less time on admin work? Then perhaps a locum tenens assignment is right for you. You can make your work even more meaningful by lending your skills to rural communities.

“Communities appreciate and respect doctors that take on locums assignments in rural areas, because without their help, the community may not have access to that specialty and expertise,” explains Matt Richards, national accounts executive at Global Medical Staffing. “You’ll be helping patients who otherwise wouldn’t get that specialized care – or who would have to travel incredibly long distances to receive it.”

In addition to making a big difference, you’ll enjoy many other benefits during rural assignments:

1. Leadership opportunities and more autonomy. You’ll bring your much-needed talents to the facility and to the rural community at large and get a chance to further develop your leadership skills.

2. Appreciation. Doc Nita, a hospitalist who decided to work locums full time in order to set her own hours and take charge of her destiny, says that people constantly express their gratitude when she’s on assignment for filling shifts that would otherwise go unfilled.

3. Full use of medical skills. Dr. Sara Jalali, who chose an assignment in rural Whanganui, New Zealand, says that locum tenens has reinvigorated her love for medicine because she gets to practice real medicine with less admin work.

4. A higher income. Because the demand for services is higher, locums physicians tend to be paid more than those that work permanent positions.

5. Low cost of living. Rural communities have very low costs of living compared to anywhere else, which allows physicians to save a bunch of money.

6. Experience with diverse patients. You’ll gain experience in a different clinical setting and get to treat patients from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

“This improves a doctor’s cultural sensitivity and ability to work with a variety of people,” points out Richards.

7. Work/life balance. “We’re seeing lots of Millennials [and other ages too] do locums as they look for work/life balance,” Richards shares. “Today, many doctors make locums their full-time career choice for the benefits, flexibility, and travel opportunities – even to head south during winter months and north in the summer.”

Richards points out another example of a physician who is a mom and works locums in a rural setting on weekends and holidays. “She can maintain her skill set, earn good money, and raise her kids,” Richards says.

8. No commute. Most rural areas are in quiet surroundings with wide-open spaces and little to no traffic as well as close to outdoors activities.

9. Choice in clinical settings. Some rural locations have busy clinics, while others see fewer patients. This diversity allows you to pick your preferred practice environment.

“We’re seeing a lot of Millennials use locums to test out a variety of settings and practices,” points out Richards.

10. Diversity in assignment length. Some doctors working in U.S. rural areas pick up as little as one weekend shift a month, like Dr. Chad Koyanagi in Hawaii, who covers a shift that would otherwise go unfilled. Other locums take on a U.S.-based three-month or six-month assignment to fill in for a physician on leave or help a facility that’s hiring. Other physicians, especially those who retired from full-time work, take a weeklong assignment every month because they have such valuable and needed skills and aren’t ready to give up medicine. With such diverse opportunities, we probably have something that will work best for your needs and desires.

11. Free housing, travel expenses, malpractice insurance, and sometimes even licensing. We take care of this for all locum tenens assignments, including rural placements.

12. Choice of domestic or international. We place in urban, rural, and medium-size towns both internationally and domestically, so there are opportunities in rural communities all over the world.

13. Great place to raise kids. Living in a small town where the kids can run around and play in peace and quiet, attracts many physicians to these unique assignments. An example is Dr. Seeber, who took her entire family with eight children on a New Zealand assignment so the kids could spend time in nature in a small, safe rural area.


Not just any physician is suited for rural healthcare. Doctors need the right medical experience and training, the right skills, and the right temperament.

“Because locums physicians are asked to see so many diffident kinds of cases, many of them in rural areas must be a ‘jack of all trades,’ which takes the right person, with the right experience, to cover all the required skills,” Richards explains. “Sometimes, creativity and resourcefulness are required, as the facility may not have the most up-to-date equipment.”

Ultimately, physicians who choose to practice in a rural setting find it immensely rewarding and bond with the community.

“Our doctors are a godsend to these communities. Without their presence, so many patients would have to travel great distances for care or even skip care. It’s a vital service we’re providing, and we appreciate our doctors who are willing to temporarily relocate to a rural area or who take time away from family to cover an occasional shift,” Richards adds.

Get started

Ready to explore your own locum tenens assignment and reap the 13 benefits of practicing in a rural area? Click here to browse our current openings, or give us a call at 1.800.760.3174.

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