Locum tenens literally means “place holder,” and to many physicians, locums jobs have been just that—a temporary position until something better comes along or the only option for those unable to maintain a permanent position. But times are changing, and more physicians realize that locums tenens is far more than a desperate search for sub-par opportunities. As the need for physicians around the country rises and physicians struggle to shoulder an increasing mountain of student debt while maintaining a semblance of work-life balance, locums has become a viable route for success.
It just makes sense that physicians utilize their primary skill set and knowledge to increase wealth and security while listening to the call of flexibility and entrepreneurship in an increasingly bureaucratic health care model.
And, the need is there: almost 95% of health care facilities admit to recently hiring locums physicians.
An obvious side-hustle
Financial gurus encourage multiple sources of income— seven at the last count. While we tend to think of medicine as a stable field with good job security, nothing is guaranteed, and ensuring multiple streams of revenue is de rigueur for the savviest physicians. With locum tenens work, you use your trusted skills honed over years or decades to provide your source of income, rather than struggling to forge a new path in overcrowded markets like real estate or striking a new path as a small business owner with its associated risks and headaches.
With locums, you can hit the ground running, building up a side hustle, where all your time and energy goes into providing excellent care, rather than start-up costs or bureaucracy. Additionally, malpractice is often covered by the facility or locums agency, as is travel, room, and board. Perks like frequent flier miles and hotel rewards are some of the non-monetary benefits you’ll also enjoy.
Increase your nest egg
Locums physicians make about 30-50% more than their permanent counterparts. With this increased income, you can put more money into retirement accounts, your children’s college funds, or even that just-out-of-reach vacation you’ve been dreaming of but never had the time to take. Whatever your financial goals, a tenens position can help you reach them more quickly.
This trade-off is a 30-day guarantee and poor job security. To some, this may be disconcerting, and any tenens physician would recommend having multiple opportunities to choose from in case a position mysteriously disappears, or you are unceremoniously let go when the month is up. Remember, locums is expensive for facilities, and many will try to reduce the cost by finding a permanent provider as quickly as possible.
Yet, for those of us who already have a permanent job or are taking time away from traditional practice due to life circumstances, this short-term work can be a boon rather than a drawback. Even for those who pursue locums full time, the instability of the work is part of its allure -keeping us on our toes and always on the look-out for a new and exciting opportunity.
Test out new opportunities
There is a vast range of facilities and practices looking for locums coverage. From sizeable urban group practices to solo practitioners out in the country, you have the opportunity to experience a wide array of practice settings and patient populations. You can cover weekend call across town, or decide to travel across the country, spending six months or longer immersed in a new community. A locums physician must be flexible, able to integrate into a new work culture quickly while keeping in mind the possibility of leaving just when things start becoming routine. Regularly moving from one patient population and work setting to another is not for the faint of heart and really bares consideration before choosing the locums path.
However, many facilities are looking to fill a permanent position, and locums can be an excellent way to transition to full-time if that is your goal. Locums allows you to “try before you buy,” providing an in-depth look at a possible new work opportunity. All this, without having to sign on the dotted line, and the ability to simultaneously test out several practice settings.
Make your own schedule
Whether you’ve had an addition to your family, want more work-life balance, or just want the flexibility to focus on passions outside of medicine, locums provide you with the opportunity to make work fit to your lifestyle, rather than the other way around. While all of us have dedicated ourselves to caring for others, locums give back by providing physicians with some time dedicated to ourselves and loved ones.
Some choose to work full time for half the year, leaving the rest of the year to travel, while others take one or two week long assignments that fit more effortlessly into their lifestyle. Whatever you choose, you control not only your day-to-day schedule but also the shape of the coming months and years.
Caring for the underserved
Locums provide the opportunity for care to genuinely underserved areas, whose community would otherwise not have adequate health care access. The physician shortage is set to reach 120,000 by 2030, and locums physicians provide the shortfall. The care you provide is will often serve patients who may not have regular access to necessary health services or well-trained providers. You’ll feel satisfaction knowing that the work you provide is appreciated and making a difference in the lives of those who need it the most.
When is Locums a good option?
- Fresh from medical training— many residents or fellows take a much-needed break following training. Choosing to pursue locum tenens is a great way to keep your skills sharp if full-time practice is some months away or while continuing to look for a permanent position.
- A mid-career change— locums provides a range of opportunities from high volume clinical practices to high tech surgeries and even telemedicine. Working with a group in a location that is of interest.
- Semi- of full retirement— locums is an excellent option if you want to start slowing down your clinical pace but aren’t ready to commit to full retirement.
The better questions may be when is locums not a good option?
Locums allows physicians to take full control of their financial future. Not only are you well compensated for the care you provide, but you also gain the flexibility to pursue a more balanced approach to medicine. Seeking out a locums opportunity is simple; you have probably received calls or emails asking if you or a colleague has “a little extra time” or interest. Reach out and learn more, or search out opportunities on job boards and dare to dream about a life that fully allows you to care for your patients and your family on your own terms.