Living Locums: What to Expect and How to Get the Most Out of Locum Tenens – Part One
Part 1: Picking Your Locums Position
Having a career as a locum tenens physician is becoming increasingly common, and is popular for doctors in all phases of their career. Likewise, hospitals and other facilities that hire locums have innumerable reasons for doing so.
Some physicians accept locum tenens assignments to augment their income or help them repay educational loans faster. Others are new physicians who want to travel and experience different medical settings and locations before settling into a permanent position.
There are almost as many reasons to work locums jobs as there are physicians. If you have considered working as a locum tenens physician, here are some things to expect, and some ways to make the most of your assignments.
What to Expect
Your locum tenens staffing agency will assist with helping you obtain licensure in the appropriate state should you choose assignments in places where you’re not licensed. Keep in mind that obtaining specific state licenses can take time. Your agency should be on top of this and have a procedure for ensuring it doesn’t take more time than necessary.
When choosing your professional references, be aware that these people can expect to be contacted multiple times: by the agency, the facility, the credentialing committee, and the state licensing body. Make sure your professional references know to expect this.
As for what to expect during individual assignments, that obviously varies. You can expect to make good money – often more than a facility’s permanent physicians when calculated on an hourly basis – and enjoy more time with patients and less time doing administrative work. That said, you may have an easier time adapting to locum tenens work if you’re good at tasks like learning new EHR systems. However, most locum tenens positions offer the option of paper charts as well.
Match Job Descriptors to Your Needs
Explore locums offers based on the reasons you have chosen this type of work. For example, if you want to be certain to have weekends off, per diem work is probably best. If you can only work a certain number of hours per week, search for positions that offer part-time hours. Speak with your agency about what to do if a facility regularly asks you to work more hours than you were promised. They should have your back on this.
If you want the most flexibility, there are assignments that allow you to arrange your schedules to some extent. For example, a job description may indicate “any three days per week,” or may include keywords like “part-time” and “flexible.”
Signs of a Good Locums Assignment
You can get an idea of what to expect from a particular assignment if you first understand why a facility is hiring locums. For example, it’s a good sign if you’re covering for someone on vacation or maternity leave who is eager to return to work. And some locum tenens physicians really hit their stride working in rural hospitals that are financially sound but can’t always find enough doctors to meet patient load.
Signs You Should Think Twice Before Accepting a Locums Offer
Likewise, recognizing potential red flags can prevent you from taking an assignment and regretting it. If for instance, a hospital is hiring because it’s a terrible place to work and they’re having trouble hiring permanent physicians, it could be a bad sign and you should fully educate yourself before accepting. Also, if you’re filling in for a physician who has burned out and your help is needed to prevent the facility from imploding, you’ll want to explore the situation and facility before accepting.
It only makes sense that locum tenens careers are becoming more mainstream, as physicians recognize the need for work-life balance and see the wisdom of gaining broad experience before accepting a permanent position. Know your own primary goal for becoming a locum tenens provider (for better pay, to have more control over your schedule, or to wind down your career without retiring abruptly, for example), and learn all you can about assignment facilities and their expectations. Most importantly, choose a locum tenens agency that has the reputation, the network, and the experience to help you make it a positive career choice. In fact, you can search our locum tenens jobs right now. It’s a terrific way to learn what your options are and inspire yourself to strive for the exact medical career you want.