What it’s like working locum tenens over the holidays

Illustration of locum physician working over the holidays

PM&R physician Dr. Genevieve Jacobs shares why she enjoys working locum tenens over the holidays, a few of the pros and cons, and offers some tips for physicians wanting to know more about working locums during the holiday season.

As a locum tenens doctor, my career has taken me on a unique journey filled with diverse experiences and encounters. Working during the holidays is one aspect of working locum tenens that often stands out. It can be a time of heightened responsibility and unique challenges and experiences for healthcare professionals like myself.

Illustration with list of benefits of working locums over the holidays

The decision to work during the holidays as a locum tenens physician is not always easy. On one hand, there is the opportunity to provide much-needed medical care to patients who may not have access to regular healthcare services during this time. On the other hand, it means possibly being away from family and friends during what is typically a time for togetherness and celebration. 

The pros and cons of working locums over the holidays

Illustration with explanation of why this locums doctor likes working locum tenens over the holidays

One of the most significant positives of working holidays is the sense of purpose it brings. Knowing that I can make a difference in the lives of patients who require medical attention during the holiday season gives me a profound sense of fulfillment. Whether providing urgent care in a busy emergency department or primary care services in a remote community, the opportunity to serve others in their time of need is truly rewarding.

Another bonus of working holidays in new places is being able to experience the cultural events of the community. Alaska had no short supply of holiday festivals, parades, markets, and events. You might even find a friendly Santa Claus llama to celebrate with you.

Dr Jacobs having dinner with coworkers

However, working holidays also comes with its own set of challenges. The increased demand for healthcare services during this time might mean longer hours and working with limited ancillary staff. The perks, however, include a quieter work environment with a skeleton crew and a wonderful sense of community among employees, which usually involves delicious potlucks and fellowship.

Despite the challenges, there is also a sense of camaraderie among healthcare professionals who find themselves working during the holidays. Whether it’s sharing a meal with colleagues in the hospital cafeteria or exchanging words of encouragement during a particularly busy shift, a sense of solidarity comes from knowing we are all in this together.

Illustration with quote from locum doc about finding balance while on locums assignment over the holidays

Tips for working locums over the holidays

Dr Jacobs spending Christmas with another locum doctor

Finding balance is one of the keys to successfully navigating the holiday season as a locum tenens doctor. It’s essential to prioritize self-care and take time to recharge whenever possible. Whether carving out a few moments for reflection and relaxation between shifts or finding creative ways to connect with loved ones from afar, finding a sense of balance is crucial for maintaining both physical and emotional well-being during this busy time. FaceTime is an essential luxury during celebrations with friends and family when you are on assignment.

Another benefit? More money

Working holidays as a locum tenens doctor also provides a unique opportunity for financial growth. It allows me to make some extra cash for the holiday season. In my experience, holiday pay is negotiated in advance, and I have experienced flat rate bonus pay of time and a half. Occasionally, some facilities don’t pay a holiday rate, so be sure you are aware of hospital policy before agreeing to assignment coverage over the holidays. Each holiday season brings with it new experiences and lessons learned, further enriching my career as a healthcare provider.

Why I recommend locums during the holidays

People are always willing to share a holiday with you and celebrate fellowship while on the road. Ultimately, working holidays as a locum tenens doctor is a testament to the dedication and resilience of healthcare professionals everywhere. It requires sacrifice and commitment, but it also offers the opportunity to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others. As I reflect on my experiences working holidays, I am reminded of the importance of service, compassion, and the true spirit of the season both in and out of the hospital. 

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