Why Locum Tenens May Be Your Best Option Before Retirement

Physicians and advanced practitioners approaching retirement may feel torn between a love for their work and wanting a slower pace, with more control over their schedule and some time for themselves. Some may consider phased retirement leading to a part-time practice, switching to concierge medicine, or quitting their paying practice altogether and just volunteering.

But if you are looking for a rewarding position with greater flexibility, and the chance to be semi-retired, locum tenens is an option that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Pursuing locum tenens before retirement can allow you to determine how many days a month, or how many months a year, you are going to work. 

FIND locum tenens jobs that fit your lifestyle with Staff Care.

How does locum tenens work? 
Locum tenens positions are temporary assignments that may be covering for a facility’s seasonal fluctuation in the patient population; for physicians who are sick, traveling or on leave; or for a vacant permanent position while the facility conducts a search. Locum tenens agencies work with candidates to find appropriate positions and coordinate the details of each assignment.

Why physicians near retirement choose locums
Physicians can choose part-time locum tenens jobs close to home, involving just a few shifts a month, or full-time assignments in another part of the country.

Travel assignments can allow you to scratch that retirement itch to go see the country, while not draining your retirement savings. You can enjoy short excursions on your days off and extended vacations between assignments.

Gabriel DiCarlo, senior recruitment consultant for Staff Care, says that many of the physicians he works with will tack on several days before or after their assignments to explore the area.  Some will travel with their spouse and pets to assignments, with a few using their own motor homes.

Locum assignments can provide the opportunity to visit adult children and grandchildren who have moved away, to experience the best each region has to offer—like a quintessential autumn in New England—or to check a certain activity or achievement off your bucket list. Just ask your recruiter to look for positions in the areas that appeal to you.

When you take a locum tenens assignment, you have little to worry about besides showing up.  Positions can range in length from one day to six months or more, with your locum tenens agency taking care of travel and housing—including the costs. Additionally, Staff Care has an internal licensing team that will help coordinate and pay for state licensure, when necessary, and they provide an internal privileging team.

Even though locum tenens physicians work as independent contractors and are responsible for their own tax payments, Staff Care does cover medical malpractice insurance. The salaries for locum tenens are also comparable to permanent positions, but many semi-retired physicians keep working for different reasons.

“I work primarily with surgeons,” remarked DiCarlo. “What I see is that they didn’t go into the work for the money, but because they have a real passion. It is hard to quit that cold turkey—they have to use their hands, they have to be doing surgery.”

Locum tenens jobs for retired physicians can be in a number of settings including physician practices; hospitals, including VA and Indian Health facilities; clinics; and urgent care. Since the work is temporary, physicians are freed up from running a practice or becoming involved in workplace politics. Instead, they can truly focus on patient care.

What about housing and travel expenses?
When locum assignments last less than a month, physicians are typically placed in an extended stay hotel, said DiCarlo. For longer assignments, placements tend to be in AirBnBs, condos and other corporate housing. All major travel and lodging is paid for up front, and smaller expenses such as tolls or baggage fees can be reimbursed.

For physicians based in a major metropolitan area, there is a strong possibility that they would never have to travel overnight to take an assignment if they don’t want to.

How to succeed as a locum physician
Have you been in the same practice for a number of years, or are used to doing things a certain way? Get ready for some changes as a locum tenens.

“To be a successful locum tenens physician, you have to be willing to be adaptable.  With every new assignment, you are entering a largely unknown environment and working with unknown co-workers,” noted DiCarlo. “That can create some stress, but a willingness to be open and flexible and a desire to serve patients will go a long way. Typically, your co-workers will be very grateful you are there.”

DiCarlo also pointed out that the more open a physician is to different types of assignments the easier it is to keep that person working. As an independent contractor, however, you have the ability to decide which assignments you will or won’t take.

In short, locum tenens might be a perfect semi-retirement plan that offers more flexibility and control of your schedule, travel and scheduling options, and a recruitment team to handle the details of your job placements and logistics.

RELATED:
10 ‘Must Dos’ Before Closing Your Medical Practice 
5 Ways Part-time Physician Jobs Could Work for You 

STAFF CARE places physicians in part-time and full-time locum tenens assignments across the U.S. CONTACT a recruiter to learn how you can get started.

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