What is the Difference Between a Doctor and a Locum: Explained

When it comes to medical professionals, it’s easy to get confused with the various titles and roles that exist in the healthcare industry. One particular area of confusion is the difference between a doctor and a locum. While they both work in the medical field, there are several key differences between the two.

A doctor is a licensed medical professional who has completed extensive education and training to be able to diagnose and treat various illnesses and injuries. They typically work in a specific setting, such as a hospital or private practice, and may specialize in a particular area of medicine. On the other hand, a locum is a temporary medical professional who fills in for a doctor who is absent due to illness, vacation, or other reasons.

While a doctor provides ongoing care to patients, a locum’s role is temporary and focused on maintaining the quality of care for patients while the regular physician is unavailable. They’re often called upon in emergency situations and provide services that are critical to the smooth operation of healthcare facilities. Understanding the difference between these two roles in the medical field can help patients better understand the care they are receiving and the medical professionals responsible for providing it.

Definition of a Doctor

Doctors are medical practitioners who are authorized to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses and injuries. They are trained in the field of medicine and have a medical degree that certifies them as physicians. They are responsible for providing medical care to patients to help them recover from their illnesses or injuries and promote their overall well-being. Doctors play a crucial role in society, as they hold the capability to save lives and improve the health of people.

Key Characteristics of Doctors

  • Extensive medical training and knowledge.
  • Authorized to diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries.
  • Responsible for the overall well-being of patients.
  • Trained to communicate effectively with patients and other healthcare professionals to provide collaborative care.

Types of Doctors

There are various types of doctors, each having specialized knowledge and skills in treating specific types of illnesses or injuries. Some of the common types of doctors include:

  • General Practitioners or Family Doctors
  • Surgeons
  • Specialists like Cardiologists, Neurologists, Dermatologists, and Oncologists
  • Pediatricians
  • Emergency Medicine Physicians

Doctor vs. Locum

While doctors hold the certification to practice medicine, a locum doctor is a temporary substitute for permanent doctors who work in a healthcare facility. The primary difference between the two is that a doctor is a permanent employee, whereas a locum doctor is a temporary employee. A locum doctor may work in a variety of locations or healthcare facilities, whereas a doctor typically works at a specific healthcare organization or clinic. Additionally, while both may conduct similar tasks, a locum doctor may not have the same level of expertise or targeted knowledge in a specific medical field as a permanent doctor.

Doctor Locum
Permanent employee Temporary employee
Works at a specific healthcare organization or clinic May work in a variety of locations or healthcare facilities
Hold specialized knowledge in a specific field of medicine May not hold the same level of expertise or targeted knowledge in a specific field of medicine

Regardless of the differences, both doctors and locum doctors play a critical role in providing medical care to patients and improving health outcomes across the world.

Definition of a Locum

A locum, also known as a locum tenens, is a healthcare professional who temporarily fills in for another healthcare professional. The term “locum” comes from the Latin phrase “locum tenens” which means “place holder”.

  • Locum physicians are doctors who work on a temporary basis to cover another doctor’s absence due to vacation, illness, or other reasons.
  • Locum nurses are registered nurses who work on a temporary basis to cover for absent nurses.
  • Locum allied health professionals are healthcare professionals who fill in for other allied healthcare professionals such as pharmacists, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists, among others.

A locum may work in a variety of healthcare settings including hospitals, clinics, and physician practices. Many locums work through staffing agencies or locum placement companies, which connect healthcare facilities with temporary healthcare professionals.

Locum work can vary in length from a single shift to several months or longer. In some cases, locums may be offered permanent positions after a trial period of working as a locum.

Benefits of Working as a Locum

There are several benefits to working as a locum:

Benefits Explanation
Flexibility Locums have the ability to choose when and where they work, allowing them to tailor their work schedules to their personal needs and preferences.
Exposure to Different Environments By working in different healthcare settings, locums can gain exposure to different practice styles, technologies, and patient populations, which can help to broaden their professional experience.
Competitive Pay Rates Locums often receive higher pay rates than permanent staff due to their flexibility and the high demand for their services.
Opportunities for Travel Locum work can often involve travel to different geographic locations, providing opportunities for adventure and exploration.
Opportunities for Professional Development By working in different healthcare settings and with different patient populations, locums can gain valuable professional development opportunities that can help to advance their careers.

Overall, locum work offers a flexible and rewarding career option for healthcare professionals looking for a change of pace or a unique professional experience.

Qualifications for Becoming a Doctor

Choosing to become a doctor is a noble profession that requires years of hard work, dedication, and commitment. Not everyone has what it takes to become a doctor, so it’s important to understand the qualifications required before pursuing a career in this field. Here, we will explore the different qualifications needed to become a doctor.

  • Education: The educational qualifications for becoming a doctor are stringent. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required with a focus on science, biology, or anatomy, followed by a medical degree from a recognized medical school. This path takes around eight years to complete.
  • Residency: After completing medical school, budding doctors are required to undergo a residency program that lasts for at least three years. During this period, they will work in a hospital under the guidance of an experienced doctor and gain hands-on experience.
  • License:Once the residency is completed, all doctors are required to pass a series of exams to obtain their medical license. These exams vary from state to state and sometimes from country to country.

Beyond basic qualifications, many other skills are important for becoming a successful doctor. These include communication skills, attention to detail, leadership qualities, empathy, and the ability to work under pressure.

Becoming a doctor is an exciting yet challenging journey that requires a great deal of sacrifice, dedication, and hard work. The rewards, however, are immeasurable. Having the ability to care for people and improve their lives through medical treatment is truly extraordinary.


To summarize, becoming a doctor is a long and challenging process. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree, followed by medical school, a residency program, and a medical license are all requirements for becoming a doctor. Along with these qualifications, other critical skills, including communication and leadership skills, empathy, and attention to detail, are also essential for success in this field.

Qualifications Description
Education Bachelor’s degree in sciences followed by a recognized medical degree from a medical school
Residency Program Minimum of three years of hospital residency program working alongside experienced doctors
Medical License A series of exams required to obtain a license to practice medicine

Qualifications for Becoming a Locum

Locum tenens, or simply locum, is a Latin phrase which means “to hold the place of, to substitute for”. In medicine, a locum is a healthcare professional who temporarily takes the place of another. Locums are becoming an increasingly popular solution for healthcare providers who need to fill staffing gaps quickly. Becoming a locum can be a rewarding career option, but it also requires specific qualifications. Here are the qualifications you need to become a locum:

  • Education: The minimum educational requirement for a locum is a medical degree from an accredited institution. Depending on the specific job, you may also need additional certifications or training in a particular field.
  • License: You must have a valid medical license to practice in the state where you wish to work. Some states may require specific licenses, such as a DEA license to prescribe medication. Make sure to research the specific requirements for the state where you plan on working.
  • Experience: Although not always required, having some experience as a physician or healthcare professional is highly desirable. It gives you credibility and helps establish your reputation as a competent and knowledgeable locum.

Additionally, some locums may require additional qualifications depending on the specific job. Some positions may require fluency in a second language, or proficiency in certain technology or charting systems. It’s essential to research the specific qualifications required for each job that you apply to. Here is a non-exhaustive list of additional qualifications that some locum positions may require:

Qualification Description
Certification in a Specialty Some locum positions require certification in a particular field, such as cardiology, pediatrics, or obstetrics.
Language Fluency Some positions in areas with a high population of non-English speakers may require fluency in a second language.
EMR Experience Electronic medical records (EMR) are becoming ubiquitous in healthcare. Some positions may require experience using a specific EMR system.
Cross-Cultural Competence As healthcare becomes more diverse, some locum positions may require sensitivity and awareness of different cultures.

In conclusion, becoming a locum requires specific qualifications, including a medical degree, a valid license, and some experience as a physician or healthcare professional. Depending on the specific job, you may also need additional qualifications, such as language fluency or proficiency in a particular technology. Locum positions can be a rewarding career option, providing flexibility, the ability to travel, and interesting work opportunities.

Responsibilities of a Doctor

Being a doctor carries a myriad of responsibilities, ranging from taking care of patients’ health concerns to managing their care teams. The following are just a few of the most critical responsibilities that a doctor must embrace:

  • Diagnostic Duties – One of the primary responsibilities of a doctor is to make an accurate diagnosis of the patient’s health condition. An accurate diagnosis helps them prescribe the appropriate treatment and ensure the success of treatment.
  • Treatment Planning – Once a doctor has made a diagnosis, they must plan an effective treatment strategy to get their patient on the road to recovery. Even as they monitor the treatment’s progress, the doctor must make adjustments as needed to improve overall results.
  • Patient Care – Doctors are primarily responsible for providing individualized patient care, ensuring patients’ overall health, and monitoring their progress.

Saving lives and improving health is more than just treating individual patients. Doctors must also take on the responsibilities of

  • Leadership and Management – Doctors often oversee teams of medical professionals, including nurses, attendants, and medical students. They must be good leaders, ensuring their patients’ team provides quality treatment while coordinating care and providing necessary support.
  • Clinical Research – Pursuing clinical research helps to improve the healthcare sector’s outcomes, through developing new treatments and keeping up to date with modern medical knowledge. Doctors working in clinical research use their experience and background to identify areas of medical treatments and knowledge that need further refinement and research.

Challenges Involved in Meeting These Responsibilities

Meeting the responsibilities of being a doctor is not always easy. There are several challenges one may encounter, including:

  • Long Working Hours – Treatment plans, patient care, and administrative duties often require lengthy working hours, which can be physically and mentally taxing.
  • Complex Cases – The general public only sees the success stories of medical practice. Still, doctors face a range of challenges, from complex diagnoses to rare conditions requiring specialized treatment strategies.
  • Legal and Ethical Issues – Doctors must navigate complex legal and ethical issues related to patient care, as well as complex health system policies and regulations.

A Final Word

Being a doctor is not just a profession. For many individuals, it is a calling or a way of life. It requires enormous courage and endurance, as well as specialized skills and expertise. Ultimately, the responsibility of saving a person’s life or improving their health and well-being is not for the faint of heart and requires an unwavering dedication to always putting the interest of patients first.

Responsibilities of a Doctor Challenges of being a Doctor
Diagnostic Duties Long Working Hours
Treatment Planning Complex Cases
Patient Care Legal and Ethical Issues
Leadership and Management
Clinical Research

In conclusion, the responsibilities and challenges of being a doctor are many. But for those who take up the mantle, the rewards of helping others and making a positive impact in people’s lives outweigh all the hardships.

Responsibilities of a Locum

Locum tenens physicians are temporary contract workers who fill in for absent, vacationing, or overworked practitioners. They are an essential resource for medical facilities, clinics, and hospitals that need to maintain continuity of care even in the absence of a regular doctor.

  • Clinical coverage: One of the primary responsibilities of locum tenens doctors is to provide medical care to patients when the regular physician is taking a break, on vacation, or attending a conference. It includes assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients’ medical conditions, and prescribing appropriate medication or therapy as needed.
  • Team collaboration: Locum doctors should work closely with other healthcare professionals such as nurses, physician assistants, and administrative staff to ensure that patients receive optimal care. It involves interacting with other team members to discuss patient progress, responding to queries about patient histories, and providing necessary guidance to the supporting staff.
  • Record keeping and documentation: As with any other healthcare provider, locum physicians are responsible for maintaining accurate medical records of patients, including diagnoses, treatment plans, medications, and follow-up visits. This documentation should be thorough, updated in real-time, and adhere to the facility’s protocols for record keeping.

Locum tenens doctors provide specialized services and healthcare support to patients and medical facilities. Their duties and responsibilities can vary depending on the nature of the job assignment, but some of their core responsibilities include:

  • Evaluating patient medical needs, diagnosis, and prescribing appropriate medications or treatment plans.
  • Collaborating with other healthcare providers to ensure optimal patient care outcome.
  • Managing patient record keeping and other documentation tasks.
  • Providing clinical or medical support to patients during surgical procedures and other interventions.
  • Providing medical guidance and support to patients’ families and caregivers.
  • Attending to administrative and operational tasks pertaining to medical facilities.

Locum tenens positions can also involve working in different healthcare settings, including emergency rooms, urgent care centers, hospitals, and clinics. Some of the typical settings for locum assignments may include:

Healthcare Setting Description
Hospital Locum doctors can work in a hospital setting, usually in specialized departments like emergency rooms or critical care units. They provide core medical support and clinical care to patients requiring hospitalization.
Urgent care centers Locum physicians can also work in urgent care centers, providing critical care to patients with medical conditions that require immediate attention, but not serious enough to justify hospitalization.
Clinics Locum assignments in clinics may involve working with pediatricians, family physicians, or other primary care providers. Patients who seek care in clinics usually have non-life-threatening medical issues such as cold and flu, cuts and bruises, allergies, and skin conditions.

Overall, locum physicians provide a vital service to the healthcare industry, helping medical facilities maintain continuity of care and provide quality medical attention to patients in the absence of their regular doctors.

Salary Differences between Doctors and Locums

One of the most significant differences between a doctor and a locum is their respective salaries. While both jobs require years of education and training, the pay scale for these positions is different due to a variety of factors.

  • Salary Range: Doctors working in permanent positions generally earn a higher salary than locums. This is due to the fact that they are salaried employees and often receive additional benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.
  • High Earning Potential for Locums: Despite earning less, locums often have a higher earning potential due to their flexibility. They have the ability to work more hours and take on more assignments, which can often result in a higher overall income. Additionally, locums often receive higher hourly rates than salaried doctors to compensate for the lack of benefits.
  • Specialization: The salary difference between doctors and locums also varies depending on their specialization. For instance, locum tenens in the higher-paying specialties, such as anesthesia or cardiology, can earn a much higher hourly rate than doctors in permanent positions.

Below is a table outlining the average salaries for both doctors and locums across various specialties:

Specialty Doctor Salary Locum Salary
Pediatrics $167,640 $110 – $140 per hour
Emergency Medicine $319,000 $150 – $250 per hour
Cardiology $512,000 $150 – $250 per hour

Overall, while the salary difference between a doctor and a locum may seem significant, it’s important to consider the other factors that play a role in their respective compensation. A doctor may earn a higher salary and receive benefits, but a locum has a higher earning potential and the freedom to work on a flexible schedule.

What is the Difference between a Doctor and a Locum?

As a language model AI, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the difference between a doctor and a locum:

Q: What is a doctor?
A: A doctor is a licensed medical professional who examines, diagnoses, and treats patients’ medical issues. They are responsible for providing medical care and treatment to help their patients recover from illness or injury.

Q: What is a locum?
A: A locum is a healthcare professional who works in place of a regular, full-time staff member. They provide temporary or short-term medical services, such as covering a doctor or nurse practitioner’s scheduled absence.

Q: What is the main difference between a doctor and a locum?
A: The primary difference between a doctor and a locum is their employment status. Doctors are typically full-time, permanent employees of healthcare organizations, while locums are temporary, freelance professionals who fill in for absent healthcare staff.

Q: Are locums less qualified than doctors?
A: No, locums are typically just as qualified and capable as doctors. Many locums have the same medical training and certifications as full-time doctors, but choose to work on a temporary or freelance basis for greater flexibility and variety in their work.

Q: When should you see a doctor versus a locum?
A: You should see a doctor for ongoing or complex medical issues, while a locum is best suited for short-term or temporary healthcare needs. For example, if your regular doctor is on vacation or maternity leave, a locum can provide temporary coverage and routine medical services until your doctor returns.

Closing Thoughts

We hope this article has helped you understand the difference between a doctor and a locum. Whether you need long-term or temporary medical care, it’s important to choose a qualified and experienced healthcare professional to meet your specific needs. Thank you for reading, and please visit again soon for more informative articles!

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