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What is the Difference Between Locum and Per Diem?

When exploring different work options, healthcare professionals often come across two terms: “locum” and “per diem.” The difference between them is simple but important.

Locum refers to a temporary, well-defined role for providers at a healthcare facility.

Per diem refers to working on an as-needed basis without a long-term commitment.

While both locum tenens and per diem positions offer unique advantages and flexibility, it’s essential to understand their different implications to make informed career decisions. Here, we explore the key distinctions between locum and per diem roles in the healthcare industry—and how they impact medical providers like you.

Key Differences Between Per Diem and Locum Tenens

Flexibility Vs. Predictability

Per diem work allows healthcare professionals to work on an as-needed basis, filling in for shifts or providing additional support when required. This flexibility works well for individuals who prefer a varied schedule or have other commitments. However, it also means per diem also means shifts can be far less predictable.

Meanwhile, locum tenens positions involve a commitment, often ranging from a few weeks to several months, providing stability for healthcare professionals in temporary assignments.

Both provide great flexibility for medical providers looking to increase their earnings, gain experience, and pay down medical debt early.

Scheduling: As Needed Vs. Planned

Per diem shifts can be posted on short notice whenever the capacity for medical facilities runs high or unforeseen staffing issues occur. For that reason, per diem shifts appeal to medical providers who can pick up shifts without a great deal of pre-planning.

In contrast, locum tenens positions tend to have more structured schedules. Locum tenens physicians or other healthcare providers typically agree to a specific duration of service and have a predetermined schedule during that time—so they know when they’re working and how many hours they’ll be expected to cover.


Per diem agreements work with the understanding that medical providers work in the area, since these shifts can be posted with little notice for immediate staffing needs.

Locum tenens positions may require healthcare professionals to travel to different locations or facilities to fill temporary staffing gaps. But that is not always the case.

Some locum tenens and moonlighting agencies specialize in connecting providers with local locums positions, making it easy for medical professionals to take on locums positions without disrupting their regular lives.


When it comes to compensation, both per diem and locum tenens roles provide an excellent means to earn extra income.

Per diem positions typically offer hourly rates, compensated on a per-shift basis.

Meanwhile, locum tenens positions typically offer competitive compensation packages, including a fixed salary or hourly rates, and sometimes additional benefits like housing.

Support Can Vary

The level of support provided can vary between per diem and locum tenens positions. Per diem workers are generally integrated into existing teams and are expected to be familiar with a facility and its practices—or to learn them quickly. As such, some per diem work apps have gained a negative reputation for throwing providers into work environments with little support or guidance.

Locum tenens positions can provide a far different experience, especially when providers partner with medical staffing agencies that provide comprehensive support, including assistance with licensing, credentialing, and administrative tasks.

Whether you’re seeking per diem, locums, or moonlighting work, it’s important you seek out a medical staffing agency that will provide you with the tools and resources you need to thrive in your new work environment.

OnCall Solutions: Locum and Moonlighting Medical Staffing

OnCall Solutions is a medical staffing agency, and we’re committed to ensuring that providers thrive in their new positions. OnCall Solutions connects providers with their ideal positions, whether those are short-term, per diem, long-term, locums or moonlighting. Our flexible and customizable staffing solutions let you decide the schedule!

With our medical support teams, local model, medical credentialing services, and unparalleled support, providers can capitalize on the full range of benefits these positions offer.

Are you interested in learning more about locums and moonlighting positions? Review our blog for access to all of our resources.

If you want to partner with OnCall Solutions, connect with one of our recruiters today.

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