Nicholas Kusnezov, MD, shares his advice on how to maximize the financial benefits of working locum tenens in addition to a full-time practice.
When integrating locum tenens into a full-time practice, there are many important things you should consider. There are the obvious scheduling issues, such as how many patients to see in-clinic, how many surgical cases to book, and how to best arrange administrative or other obligations to your primary practice. Effective management of these factors will allow you to transition efficiently between your full-time practice and part-time locum tenens work. You may also need to condense your primary practice schedule so as to accommodate anything from a few additional weekends to 1-2 weeks a month of dedicated locum coverage. Here are three tips that will help you be more efficient and maximize the financial benefits of working locums.
1. Plan to maintain continuity of care
Beyond the more discernable logistical considerations, it is essential to ensure continuity of care for the patients in your primary practice. For instance, you must consider the possibility of patients presenting with unforeseen issues, such as postoperative complications, when you are scheduled to leave for a period of time for a locum assignment. You must have contingency plans in place to effectively manage such patient- or practice-related issues that may arise in order to maximize patient care.
Furthermore, as a partner in your primary practice, you will invariably share some stake in call, other types of coverage, or administrative duties, and must account for these when deciding when and how much time to allot to locum tenens coverage. That being said, with these considerations in mind, it has been my experience that locum tenens can be seamlessly integrated into even a busy primary practice while preserving practice standards and patient care.
2. Be efficient with the logistics
Initially, when you are just getting started with locum tenens, the logistics may seem daunting. But like anything else there is a learning curve, and it is possible to integrate locums effectively and efficiently within even a busy primary practice. Efficiency with logistics is the key to maximizing the financial benefits.
Locum coverage may include anything from a few consecutive weeks to periodic coverage throughout the month, essentially as much time as you feel that you would like to and are able to safely and effectively commit. Aside from this actual time commitment to the locum job itself, time commitments for credentialing and scheduling jobs are otherwise very minimal, as these are spearheaded by the agents. This is tremendously advantageous, especially in regard to credentialing which, after having worked at a number of facilities, can be extraordinarily daunting. However, with dedicated personnel to manage credentialing packets, licensing, scheduling, and travel, the vast majority of the time I need to only review and sign pre-populated forms, show up, and work at my convenience.
3. Know what your time is worth
As a locum phsician with a busy full-time primary practice, locum tenens not only substantially supplements my case volume and experience, but it is a tremendous financial asset. As long as you know your worth and select for jobs which appropriately compensate you for your time, you can easily and comfortably increase your income considerably.
You should always ask yourself what your time is worth. For me, weekends that are otherwise not allotted toward covering call at my primary practice — or weeks not spent immersed in busy clinic and surgical cases— are time that I could be busy and getting compensated for. Having started locums fresh out of residency, I was able to pay off 100% of my medical school debt within the first few months while living comfortably and saving money.
There are additional financial benefits to working as an independent contractor through locum companies, especially if you consider forming a limited liability corporation. This allows for numerous tax advantages for utilities which are used in association with your locum work. Having no prior business background, locums has not only taught me to be a good negotiator and businessman, but to know what my time is worth. This has permeated throughout my life and often influenced other important financial decisions.