Physicians choose to work locum tenens for a variety of reasons, but many of them come down to money. Working locums assignments allows doctors to earn increased income, which in turn gives them the freedom to do things like pay off debt, start other businesses, or find a comfortable work/life balance. Here’s how locum tenens pay can help you meet your income goals and live the life you want.
Locums earn more money
Rates can vary widely, but in general, locum tenens physicians earn a higher hourly rate than their full-time counterparts. In fact, many physicians work locum tenens on the side to supplement their income.
“I started doing locums while I had my full-time job to supplement my income and pay my student debt off faster,” says Dr. Ali Chaudhary, an emergency medicine physician. “Eventually I realized I had full flexibility, and I was getting paid more doing locums than I was at my full-time job. I could work the same amount and make a lot more money or work less and make the same amount of money as I was at my full-time job.”
While there are locum tenens opportunities for nearly every specialty imaginable, primary care and surgical specialties are consistently among the most in-demand, along with pulmonology, cardiology, oncology, and psychiatry.
If you’d like to see the average pay range for locum physicians in your specialty, you can find out at Locumstory.com.
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Locums pays off student loans
Hospitalist Dr. Gary Trewick used locum tenens to pay off his student loans quickly. “I set out to pay down my student loan debt as quickly as possible,” he says. He maximized the number of days he could reasonably work in a month — without burning himself out — while also taking the best rate he could find, no matter where the assignment happened to be.
“Initially, my plan was just to pay down my loans and then maybe settle into a full-time position,” he says. “But there are so many benefits to locums that I may never sign a regular W-2 contract again.”
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Locums helps docs start their own businesses
Dermatologist Dr. Carrie Cera Hill decided to work locum tenens part-time to supplement her income while starting a private practice. “I needed to supplement my cash flow in the beginning while I grew my patient base,” she says.
Dr. Hill had previously done a locums assignment with Weatherby when she was in between permanent positions, and it had worked out well. So, she reached out to her consultant to see if she could find a part-time opportunity that would accommodate her schedule at her new practice.
“I feel extremely fortunate,” Dr. Hill says. “I was able to build the business I wanted, earn the extra income I needed to do it, and still be home with my husband and children every night. It was truly the best of both worlds.”
Locums allows for flexible scheduling
Psychiatrist Dr. Greg Carr works locum tenens full-time. He says, “I had the intention of going permanent, but I realized the locum doctors around me seemed happier because they were being paid more. There are a lot of pluses to locum tenens: higher wages, greater freedom and flexibility, and not being locked into a job before you try something out.”
Dr. Carr says that while many people think of locums as an unstable work option, he has never had a problem finding assignments. “There can be a tendency to think, ‘This is the only place I want to work.’ But really, it’s hard to predict your life like that. You can always go in and out of locums,” he says.
Perhaps one of the reasons locum physicians seem happier is because they have regained control over their schedules. Dr. Albert Belardi, an anesthesiologist, says he was working 70-80 hours per week when he was in private practice. Since starting locums, he says, “I have no call, no weekend responsibility, no holiday responsibility.”
Dr. Chaudhary has also enjoyed not being beholden to someone else’s schedule. “I typically work eight shifts a month on alternate weekends [as a locum],” he says. “I’ll work Friday through Monday every other weekend. That makes 22 days a month that I’m not working clinically.”
With that free time, Dr. Chaudhary has traveled to Turkey and South Africa, spent time with his family, and started his own blog. “I realized that I can create my own path and lifestyle that I want,” he says. “I don’t anticipate working as a full-time employee ever again.”