Debunking locum tenens myths

“It won’t pay the bills…I’ll be living out of hotels in the less-than-ideal parts of the city…I will have to be away from my family for a long time…I already have a full-time job.”

These are the reasons I can’t work locums.

We’re here to bust these myths, and make locum tenens more of a possibility than you imagined.

Will the compensation even make working locums worthwhile?

Absolutely. Locum tenens positions almost always pay more than permanent positions, typically 33 to 50 percent more per hour. And locums agencies worth their salt will also help with licensing and credentialing, travel and housing, cover malpractice, and even offer tips for how to polish your CV so you can land that perfect assignment in the perfect location. Locums are paid hourly, which may include higher rates for working overtime, holidays, or call.

I don’t want to uproot my family – or be away from them for long periods of time

Don’t want to travel beyond your city limits since your kids just began a new year at school and you’d like to stick nearby? And you don’t want to miss the much-anticipated fifth-grade band recital? Then take a local locums assignment over a weekend for some extra money to put towards their college tuition in case fifth-grade band doesn’t pay off. Plus, when you’re off, you’re off. Full-time locums don’t bring their job home with them, no charts, no call, and no emails from the office. When you aren’t working you can focus entirely on other things, like band concerts.

There are many clinics and facilities, near and far, that are in need of temporary coverage. Additionally, thousands of open opportunities mean there’s a high likelihood of a locums position being open in your local area or within commuting distance.

Would you prefer to bring your family – both human and furry – with you? That can be arranged. There’s comfortable housing available in safe locations, with most of the creature comforts provided. A reputable agency will take all your needs and requirements into consideration.

But I already have a full-time job

According to a recent survey, 56 percent of physicians cited having a full-time job as a barrier to working locum tenens, but it doesn’t have to be. Picking up some locum tenens shifts here and there – even as few as one or two shifts – can be a great way to squirrel away some extra cash for the big vacation you’ve been planning. The extra money could also be to quickly pay down those student loans.

And there’s no long-term commitment to picking up locums shifts. So what if you work one assignment and discover it’s not for you? This leaves a few possibilities:, maybe the assignment you worked wasn’t the right fit. Could be you weren’t keen on the facility. Or you weren’t a fan of the expectations of the position. The solution? Be vocal about why it didn’t work and what you didn’t like about it. There more than likely is a perfect assignment out there for you. If it was all of those things or more, it’s also possible that locums work may not be for you.

The relationships I like to cultivate with my patients will suffer

Quite the contrary. Locums physicians have found they’re able to spend more face-to-face patient time since they don’t have the added burden of administrative hassles often associated with permanent positions. In addition, many locums physicians take recurring assignments, so they’ve already established great relationships with their patients and facility staff.

I really don’t want to work in a one-horse town in Arkansas

Now there’s nothing wrong with taking that kind of an assignment, but that’s not your only option. Locums assignments can be found in large metropolises like New York and San Francisco, and there are also options in quaint towns in Vermont or Oregon – and anywhere in between.  Have you always wanted to take your family to Hawaii? You can take an assignment there, using your off days to tick off a bucket list item: the Napali Coast in Kauai.

There are also great opportunities to give back. Indian Health Service facilities are always in need of coverage, as are underserved populations across the nation. Many physicians have shared that their assignments in these locations have been some of the most rewarding of their careers.

Want something even more exotic? Bring your family and take an international locum tenens assignment in New Zealand, Australia, Guam, the Caribbean or countless other worldwide destinations.

Won’t my coworkers view me as being less qualified?

Let’s dispel this myth. If anything, they’re thrilled to see you. One, the fact that a facility needs a locums is an indication they need the help – they need to backfill a position, a staff doctor is off on  maternity leave, the practice is expanding rapidly – all of which mean the other providers need support. They know you’re qualified, otherwise you wouldn’t have even been considered for the position.

Two, you have skills and qualities that the facility is looking for. And they can learn some new skills from you. They may use a technique that you’ve never seen, and now you have an added skill to bolster your CV. Conversely, smaller facilities in more remote locations may really appreciate a fresh perspective on how to treat certain conditions.

The question is: why not give locum tenens a try?

With excellent pay, locations nation- and worldwide, brief and longer-term assignments, and the flexibility and freedom to pick and choose where and how often you work are just a few of the perks of working locum tenens. Whether you’re just out of residency or fellowship and aren’t sure what type of practice you want to work in – what’s known as the try-before-you-buy option – or are looking to slowly transition into retirement, locum tenens can be the answer.



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