6 Benefits of Locum Tenens Work: Physicians Endorse the Locum Lifestyle
Physicians Endorse the Locum Lifestyle
Here at AMN Healthcare, we're not shy about touting the benefits of locum tenens work. Recently, we've talked about the benefits of locums work for managing medical school debt, among many other topics.
But we also understand the importance of an impartial third-party opinion when it comes to important matters like your choice of career and lifestyle. With that in mind, we turn to a number of experts — seasoned doctors who have, for various reasons and in various ways, tried, embraced, and ultimately endorsed the locum tenens lifestyle. Here's what they have to say about the benefits of locum tenens work.
6 Benefits Of Locum Tenens Work
1. A Hassle-Free Career
When you work locum tenens jobs, "you have no administrative or teaching responsibilities, coding/billing hassles, or staff management issues," explains Val Jones, MD in a KevinMD-affiliated MedPage article.
"I have a more defined work schedule," William S. Gruss, MD writes at Medscape. "When I am on, I am on, and when I am off, I am off. This is a nice change from when I was in private practice, or even as an employed physician with an outpatient setting, where I was getting paged frequently by the answering service."
Geeta Arora, MD, a hospitalist who's embraced full-time locums work, explained her particular satisfaction with this benefit of locum tenens work in a letter for The Hospitalist: "Suddenly, I could make my own schedule, decide where and when I would work and have the flexibility to leave any given hospital if I felt as though I was being pushed into practices that would compromise patient care and safety."
2. The Freedom To Travel
Perhaps locum tenens' best-known benefit, the ability to travel freely — and with purpose — gives healthcare workers truly unique opportunities to help out communities in diverse places while also experiencing all that the U.S. has to offer. True, this aspect of locum tenens work has traditionally appealed more to new physicians seeking out the right career path, and to older physicians looking for variety over commitment as they near retirement.
But, in recent years, more mid-career physicians are also embracing the opportunity to "get to see different parts of the country, and ... control where you go and how much you work," as Dr. Jones writes, adding "summers in Sonoma, winters in Florida ... not a bad lifestyle choice."
"I’ve traveled around the world and continue to do so," Dr. Arora adds, emphasizing how the locum lifestyle not only enables domestic, assignment-related travel but also larger goals of international travel to accomplish diverse personal and professional goals. "I have been able to travel to Haiti for volunteer work and am traveling to Nepal shortly for medical relief work — and I have been able to dive deeply into integrative holistic medicine."
3. Pre-Retirement Planning
Retired physicians — or those who are about to retire — figure prominently in Dr. Jones' assessment of the benefits of locum tenens work. Describing these doctors as "those who have essentially retired from full-time medicine and want to keep their hand in clinically without overwhelming responsibilities and work hours," Dr. Jones makes a strong case for finishing a medical career with locums work.
In its recent obituary of Dr. Murray Schwartz, a seasoned radiologist who spent the latter years of his career working diverse locum tenens jobs, Philly.com's Walter F. Naedele describes a doctor who was "convinced ... that he had made the right decision" to work part-time locum tenens assignments "at several hospitals in Kentucky, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania."
In Dr. Schwartz's words, "for physicians like me who are at the tail end of their careers and do not want to practice full time but still want to keep their hands in medicine, locum tenens is a great opportunity," as Naedele wrote (quoting from an earlier article).
4. A Physician Career Sampler
For physicians on the other end of the spectrum — i.e., just beginning their careers — locum tenens work "is often an excellent way to begin a career in medicine," explains Patrick C. Alguire, MD, FACP, Senior Vice President of Medical Education for the American College of Physicians (ACP).
"A locum tenens may be just the ticket to experience an urban, rural, solo, small group, multispecialty group, or a hospital-associated practice before actually beginning your career," Dr. Alguire adds. "A locum tenens allows you the opportunity to experience 'risk-free' the lifestyles associated with various geographic locations before deciding upon your ultimate location."
In her letter, Dr. Arora explains how finding the right physician career path was integral to her satisfaction as a locum professional. "I decided that the best thing for me was to be my own boss," she wrote. "Opening up a clinic or starting my own hospitalist group felt like being shackled down in the system again. I talked to my colleagues from residency, and they all seemed underwhelmed with the love of their jobs and overwhelmed by the number of hours that they were working. They still sounded like residents.
"That is when I found locum tenens hospitalist-based medicine. Suddenly, I could make my own schedule, decide where and when I would work and have the flexibility to leave any given hospital if I felt as though I was being pushed into practices that would compromise patient care and safety."
5. Managing Medical School Debt
Yet another benefit of locum tenens work for new physicians is the opportunity it offers to help manage medical school debt.
"If paying down student loans is a priority for you, locum tenens offers two ways to help you accomplish that goal," explains an editorial by the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO). (Okay, this one isn't a doctor, but still represents a trusted voice of medical industry experience.)
"Physicians right out of training who have planned ahead can have locum tenens engagements lined up and begin practicing immediately," the NALTO article adds. "When deciding which opportunities to consider, be sure to let your recruiter know if earning the highest possible income is more important than geography. Pay rates do not vary all that much from agency to agency, but they can be significantly higher in remote locations where the need for physicians is greatest."
The editorial adds that doctors who choose to move directly into full-time work after their residencies may still find a financial benefit to extra locum tenens work, finding "opportunities in their local or regional areas, which allow them to provide coverage for a couple of weekends a month. And if opportunities are enticing, some even use vacation time to travel to a 1- or 2-week contract."
"Keep in mind that when you take locum tenens opportunities, housing, travel, and malpractice premiums are all covered," the article adds. "Indeed, low overhead means more money to put toward loan repayment."
6. Fighting Physician Burnout
Physician burnout is increasingly becoming a concern in the healthcare industry — "burnout rates continue to rise, and most physicians are very unsatisfied with their own work-life balance," as Dr. Kevin Campbell recently summed it up The Doctor Weighs In.
And locum tenens work is being recognized more and more as a potential offset to the dangers of physician burnout. "It’s been four years since I began practicing locum tenens hospitalist medicine, and I have never looked back," adds Dr. Arora in her letter to The Hospitalist.
"I get to pick and choose how often I work and, most importantly, when I do work, it is an absolute joy," Dr. Geeta adds. "I can happily say I am able to give my patients the care that they deserve without feeling burnt out."
To learn more about the locum tenens lifestyle, connect with an experienced recruiter by completing the form on the right of this page.
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