Since deciding to pursue locum tenens opportunities after residency, hospitalist Matthew Dothager, MD, has visited every U.S. Major League Baseball park. He’s also taken time off to travel to Iceland, visited family and friends across the country, and formed friendships with each assignment.
These are just a few of the personal highlights of Dr. Dothager’s locum tenens career. He’s experienced numerous professional benefits as well. In this interview, he discusses how choosing short-term contracts instead of full-time employment has provided him with unique opportunities for professional development.
What concerned you most about choosing locum tenens after residency?
Dr. Dothager: I was obviously concerned with finding a position. There was certainly some consternation during that process, but in hindsight, patience really paid off. I’ve been really pleased with the experience, so if this is something you’re looking into, I would strongly encourage you to consider it.
How did the Weatherby Healthcare team help prepare you for that first assignment?
Dr. Dothager: At the time, I was getting licensed in two states simultaneously, so they were able to really streamline the process. They gave me whatever information I needed in a timely manner and made sure all the deadlines were met to get the licenses in a fairly expedited manner, so I could get practicing right out of residency.
What is one of the key benefits to accepting short-term contracts versus assuming a staff position or joining a private practice group?
Dr. Dothager: Locum tenens provides a level of flexibility with my scheduling I wouldn’t necessarily have as a staff physician. Most positions these days are seven on, seven off. You can essentially structure a similar schedule if you’d like, or if you’d like to work more shifts, you can book however many you’d like. You’re able to structure your schedule to whatever your personal situation demands. It also provides a lot of autonomy without all the administrative requirements you would need as a hospital employee.
Have you advanced your skills as a hospitalist?
Dr. Dothager: I’ve become a better physician working locum tenens, because I’ve been able to work in multiple facilities. I’ve been able to interact with different physicians with different backgrounds in different parts of the country. It’s provided experiences I’m able to take with me wherever I go.
What have you learned about your professional preferences by accepting locum tenens contracts?
Dr. Dothager: Other physicians often ask me why I chose to do this right out of residency. I point to the fact that I wasn’t sure where I wanted to practice. I wasn’t prepared to sign a multiyear contract at one facility. Locum tenens is an opportunity to go to multiple facilities — to better understand how hospital systems work, including the inner workings of hospital politics. Also, I now know what to look out for when I eventually — probably — apply for a full-time position. I now have a better understanding of what questions to ask and what to be looking for in a full-time position. It’s something I just wouldn’t have known coming out of residency without that experience.
If you decide to seek a permanent position, will you be able to leverage your locum tenens experiences?
Dr. Dothager: Locum tenens allowed me the opportunity to make contacts in various parts of the country. I’ve met physicians who’ve worked in New York, California, and Florida — in all corners of the United States — so it’s really provided networking opportunities for the future, however long I decide to continue working locum tenens.