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Five things I can do more often because I’m a locum tenens physician

Illustration - Things a locum can do more often: read, relax, cook, etc

Infectious disease specialist Dr. RK Devlin, MD, FIDSA regained work/life balance working locum tenens. Here she shares five things she loves that she’s able to do again.

Before transitioning to a locums practice, I was employed by a community-based teaching hospital in the Midwest. There were only two of us in the infectious disease department, and we each worked in a one-week-on/one-week-off rotation. At first glance, that schedule might seem perfect (who wouldn’t want every other week off, right)?

It took me years to realize that I was essentially living a split life on a repeated cycle — an increasingly stressful workweek, followed by seven days packed full of all the things I’d missed while working. It wasn’t healthy — and I wasn’t happy. Luckily, I found my way to a better work/life balance with locum tenens.

Dictating my own work schedule

The flexibility of my locums schedule gives me the chance to recover when work is stressful, and it gives me more freedom to do the things I love. Here are five things I’ve been able to do more of since I’ve become a locums physician.

Sleep

When I was permanently employed, I slept badly and suffered from both stress-related nightmares and insomnia. I was tired, both mentally and physically. Now, I choose my own intermittent work schedule and make sure I have adequate time for rest and recovery between assignments. I’m back to a normal sleep cycle, and it feels really good, in both body and mind.

Cook

Shopping and prepping for healthy meals take a lot of time (and that’s before even stepping into the kitchen). During a workweek at my old job, I relied on hospital cafeteria food for breakfast and lunch, and I rarely had the energy to cook at night. I tried to eat more homemade meals on my week off, but catching up on other duties often took precedence. Now, I make almost all of my meals at home (and I try to adapt my prep techniques for the road when I’m away on assignment).

Read and write

I have a lifelong love of reading and writing. Yet, as an employed physician, I frequently resorted to passive screen time when I was exhausted from work or from off-work days full of household duties, errands, appointments, doctor visits, and short trips. With more time and less stress, I’ve gotten back in the habit of reading instead of streaming and browsing. And I’ve been writing more than ever, with two book projects, a number of feature articles, and a slew of blog posts completed since becoming a locums physician.

Travel

As one of only two infectious disease physicians at my previous job, I had no coverage for illness, injury, or medical conferences (and sadly, the administration never offered locums coverage). I couldn’t travel for fun beyond my seven days off unless my medical partner agreed to work solo for an extended period to cover for me (and upon return from my vacation, I had to do the same to pay him back) — the strain of an extended work period limited both of our vacation requests. Now, I get to travel for my locums assignments and I can take extended trips between my locums gigs. Next up? Three weeks in Singapore and Malaysia.

Play

A 7-on/7-off work schedule can be more limiting than you might guess. My family and friends worked Monday through Friday and weren’t available when I had weekdays off. And while they enjoyed every Saturday and Sunday off, I still had to work two weekends a month. Now, I can choose a work schedule that makes it easier to see and do things with the people I love. And sometimes, they even join me when I travel out of state for locums assignments.

What five things would you do more often if you were in charge of your schedule, allowing you to move the needle in the right direction for a better work/life balance?

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