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From house calls to locum tenens: One physician’s journey

You could safely say that Dr. Eva McCullars was born to be a doctor. Growing up in Prague, she would answer the home phone – starting as early as five years old – to field questions for her pediatrician mom when her mom was out on house calls.

“I would give medical advice like, ‘Make sure you drink plenty of fluids and take an aspirin.’ I just remember doing that most of my childhood and late nights going with my mom, schlepping all over Prague seeing people.”

She was fully aware of the hours doctors keep, not only with her mom’s working hours, but with her dad’s time spent as a surgeon, so the time commitment was never a deterrent in her decision to become a physician.

“By the time I got to be a teenager I didn’t know what else there was. I was the only child, and I grew up in medicine so I think it’s in my genes.”

One – unique – way to choose a specialty

Although back in the 70s — in Prague, no less – there was a different ethos in practicing medicine, but as in all things healthcare, the nuts and bolts are the same, so when Dr. McCullars and her parents moved to the U.S. her determination to become a physician never waned. Her father thought plastic surgery would be a great specialty focus as the pay is excellent; Dr. McCullars initially picked pediatrics, as that’s what she’d essentially been doing since she was five. However, halfway through her residency she realized that there wouldn’t be as much of a variety as she felt she’d need in her specialty of choice.

“Most of the patients I dealt with were children with runny noses and urinary tract infections. I didn’t really see myself only treating most of those types of illnesses in the long-term, so I was going to get out of medicine entirely,” she recalls.

Luckily, a friend of Dr. McCullars reminded her that she really enjoyed studying psychiatry, so she decided to begin a residency in that specialty, even though her father had some misgivings.

“I thought, ‘Ok, I think I’ll be a psychiatrist,’ and when I told my father he said, ‘But all psychiatrists are crazy.’ That’s how I picked psychiatry. Partially teenage – well, early 20s — rebellion, but primarily because I liked the residency training,” Dr. McCullars says. “I liked the medical school prep work for it and I have no regrets. I love what I do.”

Locum tenens as a way of life

So how does locum tenens fit into Dr. McCullars’ life and career?

“The best part about being a locum tenens is being able to work for the period of time you want to work without being forced into working longer if you don’t want to.”

Locum tenens came into her life at the most opportune time. Her family in Oregon was suffering a crisis, and she was able to secure an assignment there and be nearby for support for as long – or briefly – as needed.

And the ability to work as much or as little as she wants, not having to deal with any of the administrative headaches and facility politics, and simply getting to focus on the patient make locum tenens the only way to practice medicine for Dr. McCullars. Another perk? Not being tied down to one location.

“I can leave when I want to leave as long as I fulfill my commitment to the length of time I agreed. I don’t like getting sucked into local politics,” she says. “You become part of the hospital and then you kind of get consumed. I like to breathe.”

Dr. McCullars got into medicine to help her patients, and locum tenens allows her to do so without the outside noise, which allows her to purely focus on them.

“There are a lot of pressures other than taking care of patients when in a permanent position. I love taking care of patients, and locum tenens allows me to do this without any of the other distractions,” she shares. “I like going somewhere with policies and procedures already in place so there are some guidelines to follow. I’ve been there, done that, created my own guidelines; I wouldn’t go back.”

Why she’ll never go back

The ability to focus solely on her patients without the headaches of the administrative hassles, office politics, and relentless schedule, in addition to the freedom to be where she needs to be, when she needs to be there, makes locum tenens the only way for Dr. McCullars to practice medicine now.

“Locum tenens allows me to have the freedom that I always wanted to have within the context of my profession,” Dr. McCullars shares. “My profession does not allow me to be free but doing the job of locum tenens allows me to leave, make a comfortable income, go to places where I’ve never been or explore the possibility of living there or getting a home, but most importantly, it allows me to leave the job when it’s time to leave the job.”