The traveling doctor, or how locum chiropractic can transform your life

The other end of the spectrum for doctors who find locum chiropractic work appealing are DCs who have retired or exited from practice

PROVIDING chiropractic coverage work, commonly referred to as a locum (temporary stand-in) doctor, is a concept that has been common for chiropractors in Europe and Australia for decades now. But this powerful career option has not been widely available in the United States until recently. There are several big benefits to providing locum chiropractic work, which is why its popularity has exploded over the past few years.

Providing chiropractic coverage can be an excellent option whether you are at the start of your career, looking for a change of pace and environment, or have exited out of practice but still have a passion for using your hands and experience to serve others.

Locum chiropractic: increased freedom and flexibility

The number one reason becoming a locum doctor is appealing is the freedom and flexibility. Working in different environments with different patients and diverse staff will always keep things fresh and exciting. For those who do not like routine and the monotony of being around the same people every day, the flexibility of working as a locum solves this issue.

Coverage work has become an appealing style of practice for chiropractors who are young parents and still want to keep their skills sharp and serve others. Becoming a locum allows the freedom a young parent needs to tend little ones regularly. The ability to schedule your work as you choose around the unique aspects of your daily routine creates a benefit that someone who owns a practice typically does not have.

There is also the altruistic side of assisting your colleagues. It’s widespread in Europe and Australia for practice owners to take a month-long vacation from their practice. Most practices cannot sustain a week or two, let alone an entire month, of being closed. Owners are often quite happy to find an option to step out of their practice, get some time to rejuvenate and rest, and still make money. Practice owners are happy to pay a portion of that revenue generated while away from their practice to a locum chiropractic doctor who can step in and cover for them.

When life happens

There are also those times where you may need to step away from the practice because of an injury or pregnancy, and a locum chiropractor can help keep your business going during this period. Many locum doctors say the gratitude and appreciation they receive from these owners is immense and particularly rewarding.

Chiropractic locum work also provides an excellent opportunity to develop and broaden your skill set as a chiropractor as you adapt to many different techniques and practice cultures. Great locum doctors can adapt and provide several styles and techniques of care so that the office they are covering for does not skip a beat while the owner is away.

This is also becoming a popular career choice for new graduates. Often students want to see a variety of practice styles before committing to the type of practice best suited for them. The opportunity to step into multiple different practices and serve offers tremendous insight while being paid, which is hard to obtain outside of locum work.

Opportunities for retired DCs

The other end of the spectrum for doctors who find locum chiropractic work appealing are DCs who have retired or exited from practice. Often stepping away from the grind of running a practice day to day is enjoyed following retirement. However, as time goes on, these retired doctors often miss the interaction with people and still feel they have more to share after all their years and experience in the profession.

Stepping into another practice periodically to share wisdom and knowledge, and lay hands on patients, is a great way to still provide a purpose. This also taps into years of experience without the stress of operating a business with the overhead and staff issues that come along with practice.

Scheduling freedom and insurance

Another benefit of working as a locum doctor is mapping out your year. Because you do not own the physical business and therefore do not have the responsibility of payroll and overhead, you can build out your schedule in a way that suits your unique situation. You can take off the times you do not want to work and schedule opportunities when you want to work.

Locum doctors typically are advised to set up their coverage services as their own small businesses. Owners will pay your business directly for your contracted services. This will enable you to take advantage of itemizing your business expenses and tends to help you save on taxes. Locum doctors must provide malpractice insurance to cover the work they perform while in another doctor’s office. And of course, as a locum doctor, you are required to have an active license of chiropractic in the state you are providing services in.

Locum compensation

The pay range for locum chiropractic services is based on several factors. Usually, the variables used to determine the fair exchange for time and service as a locum doctor providing chiropractic coverage services in practice depends on the number of days a week providing coverage, the length of hours involved in the shift, and the volume of patients.

Some like to arrange compensation on a per-visit model, and others prefer a flat rate for a half day or full day. Find out what the average collections are for the services provided, along with the number of people to be cared for. This will provide a rough estimate for the amount of revenue the practice will generate from the coverage.

A locum can typically charge 15-30% of the collected fees. So, if an office averages $50 per adjustment, a range of $8-15 per adjustment is fair.

When using a flat daily fee, we typically see a range from $150-300 per shift, and $300-600 per day of coverage. This averages out to around $50-75 per hour. Locum docs sometimes also simply charge an hourly rate.

Like everything, the goal here is a win-win for the locum and the practice owner. The coverage doctor needs to make enough money to justify their time, expense and expertise, and the clinic owner needs to see enough revenue come in while they are away. It makes sense for them to keep their office open and pay you instead of closing altogether.
These fee schedules allow the owner to still have enough money available to cover the office overhead created by staying open and paying the staff supporting you and providing some profit for them as well.

If you are traveling from a far distance, it’s not uncommon for an owner to pay some kind of travel stipend. It’s also not uncommon that the owner will offer for the locum to stay in their house if they are headed out of town for an extended vacation or sabbatical. Sometimes this provides another opportunity to earn extra money as a house sitter if you help take care of pets and plants while the owner is away. If the owner would prefer a locum stay at a hotel, it is not unreasonable for them to cover that expense.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in providing locum chiropractic services is staying busy. Depending on needs, this can vary from individual to individual. Using a locum service to help source consistent work can help ensure steady work.

Whether one is a new graduate, a retired chiropractor, or a mom or dad looking to practice and keep the hands sharp, there are thousands of chiropractic practices waiting for help.

ALLEN MINER, DC, is a 2003 Parker College of Chiropractic graduate who has been practicing in Albuquerque, N.M., since 2003. In 2016 he co-founded Chiro Matchmakers, which has placed thousands of DCs around the world. He is the co-author of “The Chiropractic Code,” published in 2014. For more information, go to


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