Being a practicing physician takes hard work, dedication, and a daily outpouring of empathy. Then there’s being a mom. Not only does motherhood require all of the above, you have the added layer of wanting to spend as much precious time as possible with your children. Trying to meet the demands of being both a physician and a mother could be overwhelming to anyone, but locum tenens has made it not only possible but a rewarding reality for many physician mothers.
Protecting precious family time
“Family comes first, but it’s kind of tough because patients are a very close second,” emergency medicine physician Dr. Katharine Altieri shares. “Whenever I’m home I always try to spend as much time with the kids as I can and do activities and family events, but also try to give each kid their individual time.”
Dr. Altieri, who is the mother of three, says the freedom to make her own schedule by working locum tenens has made it possible for her to spend time with her family. And she’s not alone.
With three children under the age of seven, OB/GYN Dr. Jenny Underwood, felt she was being pulled in two different directions. That’s why she chose full-time locums rather than taking a permanent position.
“I realized how nice it was to have a lot more time home; I was able to go to my kids’ sports and school activities,” she says. “I chose to work full-time locums because I felt I was missing so much daily time with my kids.”
She works only seven to 10 days per month and spends the rest of her time with her family.
“I felt like I missed so much before I began locums. Now I can do the school drop offs and pickups, I’m able to go to their sports, and I can now make parent-teacher conferences,” she says. “I couldn’t do that before. I just want to protect my time.”
Being fully present when you’re home
Dr. Underwood appreciates the fact that when she’s home, she only has to think about one thing: her family.
“Locums is a great option to consider because although I’m gone for the seven to 10 days on my assignment, when I’m home I’m fully focused on my family because I’m not having to chart, I’m not on call, I’m not distracted,” she says. “I’m just busy, at home, enjoying what I have.”
OB/GYN Dr. Andrea Cobb, mother of two, agrees: “That’s one thing that locums helps me do. When I’m with my family, I can give them my full attention and leave work behind. When I’m home, I’m home. They’re completely separated.”
Locums work can be restorative for physician mothers
Dr. Underwood considers her time spent on locums assignments to be a way to recharge herself before getting back into “mom mode.”
“This may sound bad, but you’re away from your family, so you have a break. And for a mother of three young kids, sometimes that seven days is nice because it rejuvenates me to go back and be a mom,” Dr. Underwood says. “It’s hard to explain, but it’s refreshing as a mom to have a week of doing what you’re passionate about as a doctor and have the time when you’re not working to exercise and breathe for a second. I come home refreshed. On the flip side, it’s the same: I’m home with my family for three weeks, and then I’m excited to go back on assignment. I’ve found that as a mom, locums gives me that balance.”
Having a supportive partner
Dr. Andrea Cobb says her biggest supporter is her husband.
“He is amazingly supportive,” she says. “He’s wonderful. A 50% partner in everything: housework, cooking, cleaning, kids, everything; if it weren’t for that, I’m not sure how I’d accomplish it all. We do a lot of divide and conquer.”
When Dr. Altieri’s at work, her husband’s able to be at home to spend time with the children. “He’s just an amazing father to our kids and a great partner.”
OB/GYN Dr. Lanetta Coleman and her husband agreed on locums as a way to supplement the pay from her permanent position so they don’t have to dip into their retirement savings to pay for their children’s college. Her two kids are older — one in college and the other only one year away from graduating high school.
“When we started looking into retirement and paying for college at the same time, we had to plan for that,” she says. “We weren’t interested in using our retirement to finance college, so locums was a great way to do that. It supplemented the 529 savings in such a way that we haven’t felt the financial impact of college tuition.”
The consensus: Just try it
Dr. Underwood is part of a Facebook group called Physician Moms Group, where many recommend working locums as a mom because it works so much better for their family.
“There’s a lot of variety in locums jobs. I think it’s great, and more people should try it,” she says. “I don’t think I’ll ever take a perm job — maybe when the kids are in college — because locums gives me so much flexibility. I think that moms should just try it. They’d be surprised how well it pairs with the life commitments of being a mom.”
Dr. Altieri couldn’t agree more. “I would highly recommend working locums as a mom because you can adjust your schedule so you can be with your children. I think locums is actually ideal for any parent, mother or father.”
The multitude of options and variety of locums assignments is part of what’s gotten Dr. Cobb hooked: “I don’t want to work full time anymore. Period.”