Top 5 Additional Reasons to Be a Locums Doc
Today’s post is a guest post that riffs off my original Top 5 Reasons to be a Locums Doc. As I’ve shared, I was a full time locums doc for a couple years after residency, and have worked as a locum in between jobs and on vacations at various times throughout my career.
Brittney River from VISTA Staffing Solutions offered to share five more reasons to be a locums doc, and I liked what she had to say. VISTA is a site sponsor, helping support this site and its charitable mission, but I accepted no payment for this post. Take it away, Brittney.
Presenting: Five Additional Reasons to Be a Locums Doc
1. You Value Real-Time Learning Experiences
Doctors go through a tremendous amount of training during the seven to ten or more years it takes to get from medical school to the end of residency. They undergo additional formal training in various stages of their careers to keep us up-to-date on the latest practices and technologies. Yet all the formal training in the world can never replace the real-time training received during the actual practice of medicine.
Locum tenens work is an incubator of real-time training by virtue of the fact that it exposes the doctor to different ways of doing things, different work environments, different patient personalities, and even different rules and regulations. The fact is that no two medical facilities are exactly alike. No two patients are exactly alike. The more exposure a doctor can get to new work experiences, the more real-time learning takes place.
2. You Don’t Want to Spend Your Life Paying Student Loan Debt
In the initial Top 5 post, PoF made mention of boosting your income through locum tenens work. Locums income can be disposable income that allows you to live a more comfortable lifestyle. But there is another important financial factor to consider: working as a full-time locum for the first several years of your career could help you put a serious dent in your student loan debt.
Bear in mind that competition for qualified locums is stiff. Therefore, locum tenens agencies are known to offer generous benefits to qualified doctors willing to sign on. Often among those benefits is housing. Whether an agency provides direct housing or a housing allowance, working as a full-time locum may eliminate the need to maintain a permanent residence. All the money that would otherwise go to the mortgage or rent can be put toward debt. The same is true for money that would otherwise be spent on medical malpractice insurance and travel.
3. Medical School Has Not Diminished Your Wanderlust
It has been said that one of the nicest fringe benefits of locum tenens work is the ability to travel while earning a living. The travel option may not mean much to some doctors who choose only local assignments, but those who travel across the country as they work have an opportunity to combine their love of medicine with their wanderlust.
Travel appears to be a universal desire ingrained in humans. Though I claim no ability to explain why, I have observed how much we love to visit new places and see new things. I know that a lot of people would love to spend their lives traveling but are simply unable to do so because having to pay the bills get in the way.
The full-time locum has an advantage in that he or she can travel far and wide. Locum work doesn’t have to be confined to a single state, region, or even a country. Qualified locums can literally work anywhere in the world.
4. You’re Not Thrilled About Other Options
In the absence of locum tenens opportunities, doctors who still want to be engaged in clinical practice have but two options: establish a private practice or accept permanent employment. Locum tenens work combines the best of both.
For example, in the original Top 5 post, you learned how locum tenens work is generally free from the politics of institutionalized medicine. That’s absolutely true. But it is also free of the hassles that come with running your own business, which is essentially what you’re doing if you open a private practice.
I would encourage any doctor not interested in private practice to consider locums work over being employed. Listen, it’s not easy being employed either. When you work as a locum, you are essentially a self-employed doctor working on a contract basis for other medical facilities that handle all the business issues. You simply check in, do your work, and go home. And if you don’t like the facility for whatever reason, you can simply walk away once your contract is finished.
5. You Are Afraid of the Rut
Every career choice has potential pitfalls. In the world of medicine, one of the easiest pitfalls to succumb to is the proverbial rut. The doctor can go to work as an employed clinician, start earning a paycheck and paying the bills, and slowly get entrenched without recognizing it until decades later. By then the rut is fairly deep.
Locum doctors truly have the most control over their careers. They can choose assignments based on their needs and preferences; they can take short or long breaks between contracts; they can negotiate pay and working conditions. With all the opportunities available to locum doctors, the only way to get into a rut is to purposely go there.
PoF: I hope you enjoyed today’s guest post, the third on this site about locum tenens work. I’ve also written about the pros and cons of locums, but I will say that I’ve had largely positive experiences.
Recently, my employer enacted a policy that effectively bans employed physicians from doing any locums work outside of our health system. If I weren’t so close to a potential retirement, I’d be up in arms over what I think is a short-sighted decision meant to exert more control over us.
I still might raise a fuss — locums was good to me. Working many places exposed me to a varied patient population. I’ve given anesthesia for procedures my hospital doesn’t offer, and I’ve seen innovative ways of approaching perioperative workflows that have made me a better, more well-rounded physician.
There may be strategic reasons for administration to limit certain specialties from benefitting competitors, but I see no good reason an anesthesiologist should be told how to spend his free time. I spent some of mine working elsewhere, and I’ve brought back and implemented ideas that have benefitted my employer and my patients.
Have you worked as a locum tenens doc? What were your reasons? Feel free to share your experiences, both good and bad, below.