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Can I work part-time locum tenens if I have a full-time job?

Illustration – physician considering locums

Experienced locum tenens Nicholas Kusnezov, MD, answers commonly asked questions about how part-time locum tenens can work with a full-time job.

Locum tenens and full-time work aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, many physicians who work locum tenens are employed full-time for supplemental income, to save for retirement, to pay down debt — or just to have more disposable income. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions I get from full-time physicians wondering if they can work part-time locum tenens with a full-time job.

Should I notify my employer?

Yes. It is always best practice to keep your primary employer in the loop. You should make sure that you are contractually able to moonlight prior to pursuing this so that you are not in breach of contract with your primary job.

For instance, there may be a non-compete clause in your contract or a clause specifically prohibiting other forms of employment which may broadly encompass locums. It is always best to be transparent with your primary practice to avoid any issues that may arise because of moonlighting which may be brought to light. 

And if there’s no conflict, you can easily work locum assignments in on weekends or take vacation time. As a locum tenens I would recommend building in the possibility for moonlighting within your contract so long as you remain a productive member of your practice. This would give you the opportunity to supplement your experience and your income.

Ultimately, the you’ll need to be credentialed at the hospital where you’re taking locums shifts, and the locums company will reach out to the hospitals where you currently work. They’ll need letters of good standing and/or practice references, though this may not directly include your employer.

How does licensing, credentialing, and malpractice insurance work for a part-time locum?

Whether you choose part-time or full-time locums, the locums agency takes care of the vast majority of the paperwork. This includes everything from licensing to credentialing, which are arguably the most painful parts. Malpractice insurance is similarly more than sufficiently covered through the locums agency. As a result, whether you do part-time or full-time locums, the process is painless.

How does part-time locums scheduling work with a full-time job?

The majority of part-time locum providers have full-time jobs. As a result, you are essentially building in locum assignments to your already full-time schedule. This does require some foresight and careful planning, especially with consideration for travel times — unless you’re working local locums — and alterations in the schedules of your primary practice, both clinic and OR.

There are many opportunities which are constantly flooded into the market, and rest assured, you will find an assignment which works for your schedule. There are a variety of different types of assignments, ranging from periodic weekend coverage for as little as once a month to full-time locum positions. I think most often, you’ll find a weekend or seven-day stretch presented that, with enough advance notice, you would be able to work into your primary practice schedule by condensing and moving a few dates around.

How far in advance should you start planning if you’re considering working locums?

Whether you are a full-time or part-time locum provider, integrating locum assignments into your primary practice schedule takes foresight and organization. In my experience, you can never start planning too early. Namely, I would recommend as soon as your locum agency presents you with opportunities in a state that you could foresee potentially working.

The first step is licensing. Once you commit to a potential assignment, the locum agency will initiate the licensing process, which is dramatically easier than doing this yourself. Some agencies will completely cover the cost of licensing, and others will wait until you work an assignment in that state to reimburse you. Once you have a license, it’s just a matter of finding the right opportunity at the right time.

Frequently you will be presented with assignments for a broad range of potential dates. I have found more often that the facilities are amenable to adjusting their schedule to match yours, as you are providing them with a much-needed service. Even if the assignment schedule has a specific set of dates that don’t exactly meet my availability, I tend to respond to most of them with my own dates that I know I would be able to swing. In most cases, the dates I’ve requested are often accommodated. Sometimes it’s a give-and-take.

Since credentialing may take a month or more, you’ll want to accept an assignment as far in advance as possible. For last-minute needs, facilities are often capable of at least doing a short-term emergency credentialing, which I have found common for last-minute asks. Most of the time I allow for at least one to two months for the credentialing process.

Personally, I am always looking about three months down the line, though for ongoing assignments, I may plan as far out as six months. Being the first to offer and sign off on dates gives you much more flexibility. So start early, plan ahead, and stay organized. You’ll find that locums offers an excellent supplement to your primary practice both in terms of experience and income.

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