Residents & Fellows

How working locums launched one doctor’s medical career

For every physician, locum tenens can serve a unique purpose and smooth over the transition from one career stage to another. Dr. Kimberly Atiyeh, a head and neck surgeon, decided to work locum tenens after residency as a pathway to finding her ideal job after residency. While she wanted to begin work in the medical field right away, she didn’t know exactly what job she wanted. Seeking to test the waters before making a commitment, Dr. Atiyeh found that locum tenens offered a gateway into the professional world without locking her into a contract.

A more deliberate approach to a career path

Dr. Atiyeh says she was solely concentrating on academics while in residency and fellowship and took a very deliberate approach to exploring what career path she wanted to take. “I felt like I needed to explore all of my options for probably longer than most people,” she says. “Toward the end of my fellowship, I knew I wasn’t at a point of making a decision about what I wanted my long-term physician job to be. That’s when I heard about locums.”

Dr Atiyeh mountains

A more relaxed job search

Working locum tenens out of residency suited her well. “It really seemed like a wonderful opportunity for me to explore my options.” By taking on a temporary position, Dr. Atiyeh had the flexibility to continue her job search without feeling the pressure to just take the first job that came along. “It really allowed me to relax and be patient in finding the right opportunity for me.”

The first locums assignment

Dr. Atiyeh’s first assignment lasted eight months. In a community where access to specialty care was sparse, Dr. Atiyeh felt a strong sense of purpose and was able to thrive in a supportive, hardworking environment.

“When I showed up and patients came in to see me, they were so thankful and excited,” she says. “To be able to see a specialist promptly was clearly a novelty for some patients, as hard as my new colleagues had been working. I immediately felt profoundly useful and appreciated.”

Even on her assignment, Dr. Atiyeh wasn’t tied down to one location, which allowed her to further enrich her personal and professional life.

“I was able to do things I hadn’t been able to do during my decades of schooling and training,” she says. “While about half of my weeks were spent working, the other half were spent traveling.  Aside from reading and attending academic conferences, I was able to be present for important family events like my sister’s first Ironman. I visited friends I hadn’t seen in months; I learned how to scuba dive; and I explored 13 countries in six continents.”

Dr Atiyeh skiing

Developing skills beyond medicine

Her locums position also equipped Dr. Atiyeh with key financial insights and strategies. Aside from the financial benefits of locums — like paying off hefty medical school loans and extra income for traveling — working as an independent contractor not only gave her opportunities to gain experience in contract negotiation, investing, and retirement planning, but also afforded unique tax strategies and expanded her entrepreneurial curiosity. 

“In training, you are so focused on the craft of medicine. But while doing locums, I was thankfully forced to and finally able to educate myself about critical personal finance topics I had never paid attention to previously,” she says. “I found myself enjoying this process so much that I am planning to start a finance seminar for medical students at my current position.”

Finding the right permanent position

Working locums ultimately allowed Dr. Atiyeh to satisfy her craving for travel that she was never able to indulge in college while also granting exposure to new environments and giving her a sense of appreciation for her practice and a stable income. And the best part, Dr. Atiyeh was able to find the right permanent position after exploring locums — one that would be both challenging and rewarding.

“I am the medical director of head and neck surgical oncology. This brings an additional element to the job that really excites me and, I think, will ultimately change the trajectory of my career. My new position challenges me, expands my skill sets, and brings me tremendous pride.”

Dr Atiyeh standing by classic care

Locums as an option for the future

Though she’s excited about her new position, Dr. Atiyeh had such a wonderful experience with locums that she’ll always keep it in her back pocket as a viable option for the future.

“I know that physician burnout is a hot topic these days and, while I’m not currently experiencing it, it’s something I think we all need to be in tune to. 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.”

Finding a job after residency doesn’t have to be hard. Need a short-term physician job while looking for your next permanent position? Give us a call at 954.343.3050 or view today’s physician job opportunities.

About the author

Paisley Saris

Paisley Saris is a freelance writer who specializes in writing for millennial audiences. She has written for the healthcare, technology, and consumer packaged goods industries.