OB/GYN is one of the most in-demand specialties in America — and one of the busiest. According to the Medscape OB/GYN Compensation Report 2018, 56 percent of the specialists clock in 30 to 45 hours per week seeing patients. Another 18 percent put in up to 55 hours per week, while 12 percent spend between 56 and 65 hours each week seeing patients. This accounting does not necessarily calculate for the time devoted to administrative responsibilities, and there’s frequent call duty, too.
As a result, OB/GYNs are under intense pressure, but it can be very rewarding. OB/GYN Dr. Roseann Freundel says, “It’s wonderful to be the first person to lay hands on a brand-new life. It’s also quite a privilege to be there when there is a loss. You’re there at the most intimate time in people’s lives. As a provider, you are very much needed, and how you approach it makes the difference in people’s lives forever.”
Given the time pressures, it’s probably no surprise that half of the respondents to Medscape’s recent OB/GYN Lifestyle Report admit to experiencing burnout, depression, or both. Doctors claim too many bureaucratic duties (53 percent) and too many hours at work (43 percent) lead to dissatisfaction. In spite of all these pressure, Dr. Freundel loves her career. She now works full-time as a locum tenens physician.
Here are four ways working locum tenens has made a big difference in her quality of life and how it can help other OB/GYNs as well.
1. Better work-life balance
“Work-life balance was something I struggled with as an attending physician,” admits Dr. Freundel. “I had at least 10 calls per month, office hours, and by the time I finished all the paperwork, it was 7 or 8 p.m. before my day ended.”
But since accepting OB/GYN locum tenens opportunities with Weatherby Healthcare, Dr. Freundel enjoys a more rewarding relationship between professional and personal time commitments.
“This is a perfect opportunity to have control over my schedule,” she explains. “I work some weekends and holidays, but I choose which holidays I want. Additionally, I have a child and grandchildren who live in England. I decide when and how long I visit them—it’s my duty to spoil the grandchildren.”
Flexible work schedules are just one benefit associated with locum tenens. In fact, there are plenty of ways locum tenens can deliver positive results for OB/GYN specialists.
2. Always in demand
Dr. Freundel hasn’t had any trouble finding enough work as a locums physician. High burnout rates exasperated by a growing physician shortage add to the demand for OB/GYN locum tenens professionals—the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists asserts the specialty could experience a shortage of 8,800 physicians over the next two years.
Weatherby Healthcare consultants say this predicament is amplified at both small rural hospitals and large urban facilities. “Smaller hospitals have a hard time recruiting certain specialties, so the need at these facilities may remain open for a lengthy period of time,” says Shari Hoffman, Weatherby OB/GYN consultant.
“A lot of times, larger systems will have an obstetrics hospitalist program where an OB is in-house for 24- or 12-hour shifts, but these doctors get burned out, so they bring in other physicians to help with call shifts,” adds Kristine Hlavacka, Weatherby OB/GYN consultant.
This type of opportunity is convenient for doctors looking to pick up the occasional temporary assignment. However, it’s important to note that does take planning for those who make OB/GYN locum tenens a full-time career. “On-call assignments have a lot of emergent cases versus standard elective surgeries more common in office practices,” Hlavacka explains. “Staffing agencies have surgical and office procedure volume criteria OB/GYN doctors have to maintain to get re-credentialed every two years. So you may need to include some long-term positions or maintain a practice on the side to meet the volume criteria.”
3. Financial benefits
When Dr. Freundel first contemplated switching to OB/GYN locum tenens, she worried she’d wouldn’t be able to afford the lifestyle, especially because she’s still paying off student loans. But pay rates at or above local market values add up.
“My biggest fear was would I be able to pay my bills,” she says. “It certainly paid more than I was paid as an attending physician. The challenges were initially getting my own health insurance. Plus, I have to pay quarterly taxes as well, but it is worth that.”
4. Focus on care
In her staff role, Dr. Freundel split her time and attention between patient care and administrative, managerial, and committee responsibilities. On assignment, she’s free to devote almost all her attention to the women seeking her care. “Even if you have a heavy load, you know you’re going to be with your patients,” she says. “You’re not going to be pulled out for some meeting.”
Also, not every short-term opportunity is a quick turnaround. Some assignments last weeks or months. Or, as Dr. Freundel has experienced, you may be requested for encore contracts, returning to the same hospital on multiple occasions. This arrangement allows locum tenens physicians to form bonds with coworkers and patients. “You develop relationships with people and still do medicine on a deeper level,” says Dr. Freundel.