How to Become a Locum Tenens Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner examines a patient.

America’s population demographics are changing, and that’s causing no small amount of disruption to the health care industry. Experts predict that, as the sizable baby-boom generation grows older, the need for experienced care providers will exceed the number of qualified doctors.

To help with the management of chronic health concerns, advanced practice nurses are more important than ever before. For people who have considered careers in health care, advanced practice nursing is a promising field.

Aspiring nurses can consider a number of specific roles, including the locum tenens nurse practitioner role. A good way to prepare for this role is to enroll in a nursing degree program, such as HPU’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program.

What Is a Locum Tenens Nurse Practitioner?

To those outside the nursing profession, the term "locum tenens" may be unfamiliar. This Latin phrase means "substitute." A locum tenens nurse practitioner is tasked with filling staffing holes, helping nursing teams accommodate larger patient volumes, or supplying subspecialty skills that the team lacks.

Working in this capacity requires nurse practitioners to travel to different health care systems and organizations, which means that the position requires versatility. Nurse practitioners in the locum tenens role must be ready to continually adapt to new policies, new team dynamics, and new workflows.

Pros and Cons of Locum Tenens Nursing

Many locum tenens nurses find the job to be a perfect fit for their lifestyle. Certainly, locum tenens nurse roles can be ideal for people who love to travel, who enjoy experiencing a diversity of assignments, and who want some control to set their own schedule. Additionally, locum tenens nurses tend to focus almost entirely on delivering care, which appeals to many nurses who prefer direct patient involvement.

With that said, substitute nursing is not for everyone. It may not be the best fit for nurses who are not in a position to travel or who prefer to experience stability in their work environment, such as consistent rules, policies, and team dynamics. For these nurse practitioners, a traditional role may be preferable.

Steps to Become a Locum Tenens Nurse Practitioner

Nursing professionals who seek a locum tenens role can expect to complete the following steps.

Becoming a Registered Nurse (RN)

The first step is to earn an undergraduate degree, which generally means a bachelor-level nursing degree but can also be an associate-level degree. Earning such a degree enables nurses to sit for their licensing exam and gain RN status.

Gaining Experience

It is generally advised that nurses work for a few years, gaining experience in providing direct patient care, before they take the next steps in their career.

Seeking Advanced Education

Becoming a nurse practitioner requires earning an advanced nursing degree, such as an MSN. Specialized training may be helpful for earning particular certifications, such as training in pediatric care, mental health care, or trauma care. After completing an advanced degree, nurses may sit for a state exam to become certified as a nurse practitioner.

Finding a Contract

The final step is finding a locum tenens nurse practitioner contract with a health system or facility. Some professional networking may be required to find a health care organization offering the desired level of flexibility.

Locum Tenens Nurse Practitioner Income and Job Projection

What can a locum tenens nurse practitioner expect in terms of salary range and job outlook?

Salary Expectations for Locum Tenens Nursing

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for nurse practitioners was $111,680 in 2020. A number of factors can impact the nurse practitioner’s specific salary, including level of education, years of experience, and geographic location.

Job Outlook for Locum Tenens Nursing

BLS data also shows that jobs for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives are projected to increase 45% between 2020 and 2030, with an estimated 29,400 openings each year. Projected job growth for nurse practitioners specifically is 52% between 2020 and 2030. This signals ample opportunity for those who seek nurse practitioner roles, including the locum tenens role.

The Education for a Developed Locum Tenens

Individuals interested in pursuing a locum tenens nurse practitioner role need to develop a versatile skill set. One way to do that is by enrolling in an advanced formal education program. Learn more about Hawai‘i Pacific University’s MSN program, designed to prepare aspiring nurse practitioners for career advancement through courses such as Advanced Pharmacology, Advanced Nursing Research, and Primary Care of the Geriatric Adult.

Recommended Reading:

The Importance of a Nurse’s Role in Patient Safety

Burnout vs. Compassion Fatigue in Nursing

What Is Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing?


American Association of Nurse Practitioners, The Path to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

CompHealth, "Locum Tenens for Nurse Practitioners: A Guide to Getting Started"

Lucidity, "Working as a Locum Tenens Nurse Practitioner: Pros & Cons"

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Weatherby Healthcare, "What to Expect as a New Locums NP"