What’s stopping you from accepting locum tenens opportunities? Have you given it some thought, but ruled it out because you’re already clocking full-time hours in your permanent position? Well, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, more than half of the physicians list working full-time as the No. 1 reason for not accepting locum tenens opportunities. There’s a perception that if you’re committed to a staff position, run a solo practice, or are a member of a private practice group, there’s just too little time left to fulfill extra shifts on a temporary basis. Or perhaps you have concerns about short-term positions interfering with existing professional responsibilities.
However, many physicians fit the occasional part-time locum tenens assignment into their busy schedules. What’s more, they’ve found the experience to be beneficial, both personally and professionally. Here are few things you should know about working locum tenens in addition to your full-time job.
You don’t have to work locum tenens full-time
According to the above-mentioned survey, the majority of physicians who accept locum tenens positions do so on a part-time basis.
After 30 years of holding traditional jobs, Dr. Mary Wadika began adding locum tenens opportunities to her schedule. Because she didn’t want to overextend herself, the emergency medicine physician limited her locum tenens opportunities to a few days a month. And even now as she scales back all her professional duties, Dr. Wadika keeps locum commitments to a couple of shifts per month.
“Even if you only accept two 10-hour shifts in a week, that’s 20 hours, and that’s enough,” she says.
1. You can choose contracts to fit your schedule
In her solo private primary care clinic, Dr. Linnea Williams sees patients Monday through Friday. That frees up her weekends, so twice a month, she accepts locum tenens opportunities at urgent care centers, both locally and in other states. In fact, a current recurring contract is located just a short drive from her office. When she has to travel for an assignment, Dr. Williams closes her office on Friday and tries to avoid early Monday morning appointments.
“I get to pick which weekends I have open, so I have a lot of flexibility and control,” says the family medicine physician. “When you can select when you go and where you go, that helps reduce the stress of adding shifts to a busy schedule.”
2. You can supplement your income
The financial pressure of college and medical school debt as well as covering practice expenses along with personal finances can add up. A few occasional locum tenens contracts can provide extra revenue.
“My hope is to pay off student loans a little quicker,” admits Dr. Williams.
Not only do locum tenens assignments typically pay a higher hourly rate than many permanent positions, but staffing agencies cover expenses, including airfare, rental car fees, and lodging.
3. You can serve different patient populations
Practicing in the same environment every day, caring for the same general patient population can become mundane. Temporary assignments allow you to step outside your routine.
“I like being in an environment where you see atypical things from a primary care, chronic care management clinic,” says Dr. Williams. “It’s fun to keep those skills up in an urgent care setting.”
4. You can add to your skill set
In addition to being introduced to new faces, locum tenens opportunities can expose doctors to different procedural nuances and cultural influences on medicine. As you accumulate more and more locum tenens experiences, you can implement the best practices from each into your permanent practice setting.
“I like seeing different sedative methods. One hospital may use a set of medications and another will use something else,” notes Dr. Wadika.
5. You can investigate new opportunities
If you’ve been feeling the itch to make a career move, but aren’t entirely sure what that next step entails, locum tenens opportunities enable you to experiment. Request contracts in a variety of facilities — small and large, fast-paced or slower, a learning environment or more autonomy. When doing this while maintaining a full-time practice, you guarantee steady income. This approach also alleviates the pressure of resigning from one position to dive into another without having a full understanding of what that involves. This way, you see what fits your needs the best before making such an important decision, and that applies to different career stages.
For example, Dr. Wadika is using locum tenens experiences to ease into semi-retirement.
“I’ll be 60 next year, which is too young to quit, but too old, or too bored, to continue practicing full time. But keeping up my skills is appealing,” she says.
6. You can take a break from workplace politics
Even if you are comfortable in your permanent practice arrangement and enjoy pleasant relationships with colleagues, the burden of bureaucracy or politics can build up over time. The occasional locum tenens assignment lets you step away from that aspect of a workplace for a temporary reprieve and the chance to focus on patient care.
Before deciding to incorporate an occasional locum tenens assignment into your full-time schedule, it’s good to know what to expect. Physicians new to locum tenens will be asked to undergo a credentialing process for the staffing company, and then another for each new facility where they accept temporary positions. However, Weatherby Healthcare representatives will work with you to expedite the process and can handle many of the details.
Additionally, out-of-state contracts generally require doctors to secure the appropriate license, or qualify for the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. Keep in mind, traveling long distances adds a couple of days to an assignment, which should be considered when deciding whether to accept a temporary job and if it affects your full-time responsibilities.
Another consideration is contract availability. Certain specialties are more conducive to assignments spanning just a few days than others, such as emergency medicine and primary care. That’s not to say quick contracts are exclusive to these specialties. To make the most out of occasional locum tenens contracts while still holding down a full-time position, be open and upfront with your consultant about your goals and schedule. Clear communication will help your consultant determine which opportunities best match your criteria and calendar.