Physician Resources

A different way to practice medical oncology: locum tenens

Locum tenens medical oncologist with a patient receiving chemo

With locum tenens, many medical oncologists have found to the freedom to practice how they’ve always wanted to. Here are stories from several oncologists who rediscovered their passion for medicine with this alternative career choice.

An alternative way to practice oncology

Dr. Sarah Ali was frustrated with the unrelenting pace of private practice. “I was getting burned out. Frankly, it was a beautiful practice, but I was seeing over 30 patients a day. I knew that there was another way.” 

Dr. Ali says she wasn’t actively considering locums when she first talked to a Weatherby consultant but was willing to explore it. She had been studying integrative medicine for a while and wanted to incorporate it into her oncology practice. One of the first assignments her consultant presented to her was in a practice in Colorado doing just that.

Oncologist Dr. Peter Mancusi-Ungaro, meanwhile, turned to locums to continue doing what he loved after retiring, but on a more flexible schedule. “I retired more than four years ago, but I decided that I’d like to go back and do a little more. I began taking locum tenens opportunities because I wanted to continue seeing patients. Locums has enabled me to enjoy my retirement but still find a purpose,” he says.

Find out more: Why locums makes sense for doctors nearing retirement

Focusing on the physician/patient relationship

Dr. Ungaro has been on a repeat assignment for the last two-and-a-half years. “Going back to the same place over and over allows me to maintain a relationship with my patients, which is important in oncology. I’m able to develop interpersonal relationships that last and continue over time. And with so many patients facing cancer in the United States, locum tenens providers are a necessary part of the equation.”

Locums oncologist Dr. Steven Paul has been similarly surprised at the net positive relationships he has developed in this role. “You don’t have the pressure of running a private practice. You don’t have to deal with billing and medical records and scheduling availability. You actually have the opportunity just to take care of patients.” 

Dr. Ali says that now she has been working locum tenens, she enjoys practicing oncology again. She sees fewer patients and has more time to nurture a stronger relationship with them. “I was able to contribute so much more meaning within each 30-minute visit, and my patients appreciated that. I want to spend quality time, not be rushed.”

Quote from Dr. Sarah Ali about spending more time with patients when working locums as a medical oncologist

That said, building a healthy relationship with patients quickly isn’t without its challenges. 

“You have to establish a rapport with a patient on the spot,” says Dr. Steven Paul. “The way to do that is to give them confidence by making sure you know the patient’s history very well before you walk in the room.”

“Be prepared that you can convince that patient that you’re as knowledgeable of the patient’s case as the previous doctors may have been,” he continues. 

How does it work? One physician discusses locums and continuity of care

Locums bring increased autonomy and flexibility

Dr. Sarah Ali
Dr. Sarah Ali

Locum tenens medical oncologists enjoy a better work/life balance since they control their schedule, which ensures enormous flexibility.

“Hiking, biking, kayaking, whitewater rafting, there is just so much to do in Colorado in all four seasons. I had originally joined on a seven-month contract, but I was enjoying the experience so much, I extended my commitment to almost an 11-month assignment,” says Dr. Ali. “I had so many family and friends come and visit me.”

Dr. Paul is also pleased with his schedule. “I am calling the shots. I work as often as I want and take off as much time as I want. It is wonderful to have that independence.”

Even more than allowing for autonomy and flexibility, working locum tenens as a medical oncologist provides ample chances to stretch your comfort zone. “It gives me the opportunity to see new practices and get acquainted with new individuals,” highlights Dr. Mancusi-Ungaro.

The professional development opportunities are meaningful, too. Since Dr. Ali’s assignment in Colorado has shown her what it’s like to incorporate integrative medicine into oncology, she’s excited to put it into practice once she’s ready to accept a full-time position. “This experience was so positive for me that I feel like I can keep doing locums until I find the right fit.”

Interested in learning more about locum tenens as a career alternative for medical oncologists? Give us a call at 954.343.3050 or view today’s locum tenens medical oncology job opportunities.

About the author

Jen Hunter

Jen Hunter has been a marketing writer for over 20 years. She enjoys telling the stories of healthcare providers and sharing new, relevant, and the most up-to-date information on the healthcare front. Jen lives in Salt Lake City, UT, with her husband, two kids, and their Golden. She enjoys all things outdoors-y, but most of all she loves being in the Wasatch mountains.