Broadening your scope of practice with locum tenens

Illustration - locum physician looking through binoculars

Pediatrician Dr. Trevor Cabrera offers his insight into how locum tenens allows physicians to try out a variety of practice settings, different geographic regions, and patient populations.

At the end of medical training, regardless of the specialty, many new practitioners are faced with many decisions regarding their future practice. Beyond the obvious questions of salary, time off, geography, and academic or private practice, these considerations extend to include practice preferences. Options such as the patient population to be served, the time spent in one or multiple locations, and the depth or variety of their practice. You can choose to work locum tenens either full time or part time in conjunction with a full-time job. You’ll have a broader scope of practice options with locum tenens, which will enrich the clinical experience for a provider.

Clinical duties: Full scope or microscope

Among individual fields of medicine, a variety of clinical duties exists. For many primary care specialties this is a question of inpatient or outpatient medicine or what might be considered full scope. For example, in pediatrics, some providers may work only in the newborn nursery, others may prefer the clinic, while others are based only in the hospital. Some, although an ever-shrinking practice, may even do all of the above. Within surgical and subspecialty practice, one center may output a majority of certain procedures that may differ from a different institution. With locum tenens, it is often easier to blend multiple job roles to maintain skills in different disciplines and keep variation in day-to-day practice. For instance, for a family medicine provider with a full-time job as an adult medicine hospitalist, locums may allow their practice to participating in the deliveries of newborns at a different location. It keeps things interesting.

Population preferences: The insured and the indigent

There is something to be said about the experience and gratification that comes from working with a variety of populations. From those with private insurance to government programs or those with no coverage at all, interactions with diverse cultural and socioeconomic groups broaden the perspective of a provider. An OB/GYN with a thriving practice taking care of healthy, insured, low-risk pregnant mothers in a wealthy suburb can also split her time caring for higher risk patients without prenatal care near the border. An emergency medicine doctor at a tertiary care academic center is able to donate some of his time to small places on Native American reservations. Here he may be the only one and may need to be innovative with a paucity of resources. Blending care for the insured and the indigent is not only humbling but also endlessly educational in deepening one’s practice.

Geographic diseases

While many conditions and presentations of medical illness share similar findings regardless of location, there are some that remain endemic to specific areas of the country or the world. Whether due to climate, the local populations’ lifestyles. or regional fern and fauna, certain conditions may not be seen other places or as frequently. In Maine, Lyme Disease is at the forefront of thoughts for a patient with a new rash, especially during the warmer months. In New Mexico, snake antivenom is stocked in abundance and each small hospital has protocols in place to treat those who are frequently bitten. In North Dakota in the winter, frostbite isn’t unheard of. Locum tenens can serve as a continual source of education to improve and grow the knowledge base for providers.

Locum tenens allows providers to experience a wider scope of medicine than almost all permanent jobs. From subject matter, patient populations, and clinical duties, the lens of medicine grows wider with each new site, exponentially broadening the horizon of those who do them. Embarking on the path of medicine is a path of endless education, and locum tenens can provide personal and professional growth in ways no other job will.

See the country, make extra money, gain more clinical experience, and see how other facilities work: Dr. Cabrera shares why he and other doctors work locum tenens.

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