By Debra Wood, RN, contributor Sep 21, 2020
Whether physicians are fresh out of residency, established
in their midcareer or in a preretirement phase, short-term physician jobs as a locum
tenens can provide long-term benefits.
“Locums gives physicians freedom and control,” said intensivist
Stephanie Freeman, MD, MBA, author of Doc
for Hire: A Blueprint for Living a Locums Life. “You pick assignments and
work when you want to work. It gives you control over your career.”
Freeman has worked locum tenens in critical care settings
for the past 12 years.
“Locums is really positive,” added Andrew Wilner, MD, FAAN, FACP, associate professor of neurology
at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and author of The Locum Life: A Physician’s Guide to Locum
Tenens, which will soon release as an audiobook.
are the top benefits of locum jobs, cited by both authors:
5 key benefits of
short-term physician jobs
1. The ability to check out different work settings
“Locums provides variety, meeting new people, seeing how
different places do things and caring for different types of patients,” Freeman
Wilner had practiced in a variety of settings while working
short-term physician jobs. He found he enjoyed academic medicine and teaching
the next generation.
However, some locum tenens physicians enjoy working in
community practices, while others will fly into a rural community, work a week
and fly home to a more urban locale.
In some locum tenens job locations, physicians might see a
preponderance of patients with different conditions than they are used to, such
as more sport and water injuries in Hawaii.
“Many see different things clinically than they are used to
and that makes it more interesting,” Freeman said.
Locum tenens lets physicians expand their experience, which
can be helpful in the long term, Wilner added. It can also allow newer
physicians to narrow down their likes or dislikes.
“You can try out geography and different practices,” he
Mature physicians are also in strong demand for these
short-term jobs, because of their confidence and people and clinical skills,
2. The freedom to find the right options for the future
Locums can serve as a bridge to a new career, Wilner
explained. A physician could work as a locum tenens provider while starting a
business, trying out medical writing or finding a new clinical position. It
allows the physician to remain current as a clinician, earning good money,
while trying out new opportunities.
“It’s a tool most physicians do not know is available,”
After Wilner married, he decided to settle down and accept a
permanent academic position. He interviewed in multiple locations, trying to
find the right position at the desired salary.
“Locums allowed me to look for two years,” said Wilner,
adding that it provided him the freedom to say no. “If I had not had locums to
fall back on, I would have taken a job. Locums gave me the luxury to find what
Locum jobs can also enhance your resume and provide
networking opportunities for future full-time jobs.
3. The capacity to control your own schedule
“Locums allows one to control their own schedule,” Wilner
Some locum tenens physicians, especially hospitalists, work
seven days on and then seven days off. Additionally, physicians working locums
may decide to accept a three-month assignment and then take the next three
months off. Wilner did that and spent his off months writing, scuba diving and traveling.
Freeman took the month of June off this year, just to give
herself a break and to refresh.
“I did not have to ask permission,” Freeman added. “I create
my own schedule.”
For some locum tenens physicians, short-term physician jobs
can become a full-time career. Often at locations experiencing long-term
difficulty in recruiting a full-time physician, the locum tenens doctor may rotate
in and out multiple times, Wilner said.
4. The potential to find balance and avoid burnout
“Locums is a cure for burnout,” Freeman said. “Many
physicians get into a rut with routines, being in the same place with the same
patients. Locums provides variety.”
With that flexibility, locum tenens offers great work–life
balance. Physicians who consider balance a priority can accept a locums
position that offers fewer hours and more time off, for instance, at a small
“Locums enables physicians to practice medicine the way they
want to do,” Freeman said.
Wilner also noted that physicians working locums can enjoy
treating patients and not worry about the business aspects of practice.
“You are isolated from everything but doing your job,” he
5. The assurance of a safety net in times of uncertainty
“Every physician should be doing locums, if permitted based
on your employment situation,” Freeman said. “There is no such thing as a
Because of losses from COVID-19, many health systems,
hospitals and practice losses had to furlough some physicians, Freeman
reported. It could happen to any physician.
“They suddenly found themselves without a job,” Freeman
added. “They had to find something to do at the last minute. The best way to
protect yourself from layoffs is to always have locums as a backup.”
At first that may sound difficult, but Freeman explained physicians
who work split-week block shifts can pick up locum assignments in their week
off from a full-time job. Additionally, some will pick up shifts at night or on
Getting started as a locums tenens physician
“The key when first starting to work as a locums is to do it
with a reputable company with an experienced recruiter,” Freeman said.
Wilner started his locums career with Staff Care, and considers agencies and recruiters
key to securing the right assignments.
He suggested first-time locums might want to start off with
a shorter assignment and see if it works for them. He did caution that there is
a reason the hospital or clinic is seeking a locum tenens provider; the
organization may be having difficulty filling a full-time position rather than
just covering a vacation or maternity leave. Even so, assignments are just for
a limited time, and the healthcare professionals at that facility are grateful
to have help.
In a community hospital, the locums physician may be the only
person with that specialty, so Wilner suggests that locums positions are for
physicians with confidence and strong skills.
“You have to be a physician not bothered by change,” Freeman
advised. “If somebody does not mind new people and new situations, locums is
something to consider.”
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physicians and advanced practitioners in locum tenens jobs across the U.S.
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