Brief History of Locum Tenens

With the U.S. facing a shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2025, temporary physician staffing — or “locum tenens” — has never been more important. Since 1979, the locum tenens industry has helped fill the staffing gap by sending physicians to the hospitals and facilities that need them the most.

Here’s a brief history of how the Locum Tenens industry has evolved and the impact it has made to help shape healthcare to what it is today.

  • 1850 Traveling doctors on the frontier, risk their lives getting to patients and find that is can be just as difficult as treating them.
  • 1861-65 During the Civil War, military doctors assigned to a fort also travel to nearby communities.
  • 1896 The first clinical use of X-rays takes place in England. Mobile X-ray units and their technicians save the lives of many soldiers in World War I.
  • 1911 Funding ($40,000) allocated exclusively for Native American health is passed for the first time. This includes money to send traveling physicians to Tribes.
  • 1918 Two US Treasury agencies open and operate hospitals for the nearly 200,000 wounded veterans returning from World War I.
  • 1930 President Herbert Hoover signs the executive order establishing the Veterans Administration, which includes providing healthcare for wounded veterans.
  • 1968 A group of young doctors travel to Biafra, Nigeria to help victims of war. The group organizes as Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) three years later.
  • 1970 Therus Kolff and Alan Kronhaus receive funding for a project aimed at recruiting locum tenens physicians to relieve full-time doctors in rural areas of the US.
  • 1979 The first national locum tenens staffing agency is formed.
  • 1993 Actress Jane Seymour plays Quinn, Medicine Woman in the popular television series about a frontier doctor.
  • 2002 Approximately 26,000 US doctors fulfill a locum tenens assignment in the calendar year.
  • 2010 The Affordable Care Act is signed into law by President Barack Obama.
  • 2012 The US Department of Defense awards contracts totaling nearly $50 million to pay for locum tenens physician services through January 2017.
  • 2014 The number of US locum tenens physicians reaches 40,000

If you are interested in learning more or are ready for your next assignment, give ICON Locum Tenens a call and become a part of the rich history that is Locum Tenens.