What locum tenens doctors know that other doctors don’t

Illustration - two locum physicians

Sonya M. Sloan, MD, shares why she is a locum tenens physician and what it means for her and her family.

What is a locum tenens doctor, you ask? In short, it is a traveling doctor who actually has a life. But just in case you have been inundated with patient care, stuck in the operating room for hours on end with no chance to see the light of day, or perhaps you are in training to become a world class doctor and you think there has to be more to life than this — guess what, there is! It’s called being a locum tenens doctor. In the world of medicine, we as physicians are looking for more than an 80-hour work week. We want, need, and deserve a life we have dreamed of and worked so hard to get. Thus, I offer you a potential option and a few things a locum tenens doctor knows that other doctors do not.

Quality of life

Quality of life is a deal breaker for most medical professionals today, not just millennials. The truth is doctors want a choice and a change for the better. We want to have a say or input that will result in more intentional purpose in our professional being and personal life.

My first-hand experience in questioning if there was more to life than medicine came from feeling the guilt of wanting a family and being present for my newborn child. Coming out of residency was both exciting and terrifying. Physicians are taught in our training — by old schools of thought — that a real professional doctor will finish their residency and hang the proverbial “shingle” out for business. But what locum tenens doctors know that most other doctors do not, is that you can have a great quality of life and still do what you love as a physician. All of which can be done without sacrificing precious time with family and friends, your health, your sanity, your dreams or aspirations.

Today locum tenens is a thriving business catering to medical professionals that provides huge benefits, especially creating a chance for a better quality of life. So what a locum tenens doctor knows that other doctors do not know, is that we no longer live in an archaic time period of just working your ass off with no quality of life. Gone are the days when being hired meant you took what contract looked great and hoped for the best. Now, you can create the best quality of life for yourself.


The face of medicine as we know it is changing as a whole, and not to the benefit of physicians. Doctors are proactively pushing for their own autonomy because most healthcare systems and powers that be are not concerned about you as a person. They are however, concerned with RUVs and/or the dollars you can contribute to the company’s bottom line.      

Let’s be serious, what’s best for the doctor has never really been a consideration in the blueprint for financial gain of health care entities. It’s not personal, it’s just business. But with the increasing demands on doctors, less financial incentives, and no real say in your own schedules, we as physicians are looking for something different, something better. I believe that ‘better’ comes in the form of autonomy and as a locum tenens doctor.

You have likely read about or perhaps personally know — if it’s not you in particular — someone who is or has been unhappy, burnt out, or just over their professional status as a student in-training, resident, practicing physician or surgeon. What a locum tenens doctor knows that other doctors do not is that improvements for physicians begins with your autonomy. You can have a less stressful work environment. You can be in control of your own schedule. And most of all, you can do what is important to you and for you.


Are you bored? Maybe you want a little adventure in your life. Well, what locum tenens doctors know that other doctors don’t, is the bonus of variety. One of the perks to being a locum tenens doctor is the travel. New and exotic places or basic down home American cities and towns. No matter where you go, how you get there, and where you will stay is always an adventure that brings variety.

OK, so traveling is a great option but what you really crave is the opportunity to meet and or treat people from every walk of life. From nurses to patients, locum tenens brings a plethora of variety in the form of human interaction. As a physician you may choose to work in a level I trauma in a metropolitan area hospital or a small clinic on an Indian Reservation in the most rural parts of the United States.  Think about it, after four years of college, four years of medical school, add on three to five years of residency training, plus or minus a year or two for fellowship or research, you haven’t really had time to enjoy your life, travel, or meet to many new people. Perhaps you have been in the same practice and or hospital for decades and you are bored as hell. What a locum tenens doctor knows that other doctors don’t, is sometimes variety is what you need to feel more fulfilled and excited about what you do and why you do it.

So what do locum tenens doctor know that others do not? We know that being a locum tenens doctor affords us the opportunity to do what we love and trained to do as a physician or surgeons, while having a great quality of life, autonomy, and variety. Being a locum tenens doctor also allows us to be relevant in so many other capacities. We have the option to be present in life for more than what our profession dictates. We can be great doctors and surgeons, as well as an awesome significant other, an exceptional mom or dad, and even a great friend who spends time doing things that matter the most to us.

This article was originally published on Reprinted with permission.

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