There’s a misconception that locum tenens doctors are constantly traveling across the country, working shifts at various hospitals and clinics, and never putting down roots. While some physicians choose to move around frequently, there are many others who benefit from working locum tenens while keeping their full-time jobs.
While locum tenens work is by nature temporary, it can also be helpful to those who want to remain in one place. How? Some use it to test out a new location or facility, while others enjoy the extra income or the variety of experiences it can offer.
These four physicians have full-time jobs, but they’ve also discovered the advantages that locum tenens brings to both their practices and their lives.
Finding your place
For those new to medicine, deciding where to start your career can be daunting. There is also pressure to accept the first offer that comes along, which is something that head and neck surgeon Dr. Kimberly Atiyeh felt acutely. “Towards the end of fellowship, I wasn’t ready to make a decision about the next step,” she says.
After learning about locum tenens, she began working temporary assignments while continuing her permanent job search. “It really allowed me to relax and be patient in finding the right opportunity.”
Eventually, she found the position she’d been looking for: medical director of head and neck surgical oncology. “My new position challenges me, expands my skill sets, and brings me tremendous pride,” she says.
Not only is Dr. Atiyeh grateful for the experiences she had while working locums – from practicing medicine in a rural area to having the freedom of traveling around the world between assignments — she’s also thankful she was able to find a permanent position that was the right fit.
Getting a sneak peek
For 35 years, Dr. Steven Berman worked as a general surgeon in private practice. While recovering from a surgery of his own, he decided to take leave from his permanent position and give locums a try.
Over the next six years, he worked locums on and off, eventually taking an assignment in North Carolina. “I got to know the community, and the hospital got to know me, and really, one thing led to another,” says Dr. Berman. “They were looking for someone to do what I was doing, and I was enjoying working at that hospital and in that community.”
He eventually was offered a full-time contract to work at the hospital, which he accepted. “It was certainly much easier to take a job knowing fully what that job was before committing.”
Earning extra income
Dr. Mark Kowalski is an orthopedic surgeon in Oklahoma City, where he owns a private practice. Though he enjoys the benefits of his permanent position, he recognizes that the landscape has changed for doctors.
“Because of the decrease in reimbursement and the increase in regulation by the government, it’s hard to make a living in private practice,” says Dr. Kowalski. This acknowledgement led him to consider working locums to earn some extra income, and he now accepts weekend assignments that are close to home.
The additional income has helped Dr. Kowalski maintain his private practice; however, he’s found that he enjoys locums so much that he says he may eventually switch to locums work full-time.
Learning from others
Dr. Demetri Poulis was looking for a way to relieve burnout after years of working on call – by himself – as a general surgeon. While exploring alternative career options, he discovered locums. He decided to spend some time traveling across the country, working in a variety of settings, and experiencing new ways of practicing medicine.
“It let me see how it was done elsewhere, how other people handled things. I had more confidence in myself, especially after being burned out after that many years of being on call alone,” he says.
Eventually, he was offered a full-time position at a hospital where he’d been working temporarily. Since he was familiar with the team and the hospital, he already knew it was a good fit, and he says the transition was seamless. “I hadn’t been this happy in 10 years.”
From temporary to permanent
It’s clear that physicians find locum tenens work rewarding for different reasons: it can be the perfect complement to a permanent position, or it can lead to the ideal professional opportunity. Others find they enjoy it so much they begin working locums full-time.
Even though Dr. Atiyeh is happy in her current position, knowing that locums is always available helps her remain calm about the future. “If I ever get to a point in my life where I am feeling burned out, knowing that locums is something that I’ve done in the past, that I’ve really enjoyed, that has its own merits, seems like a great option to have.”