Locum Tenens

Why locum tenens makes sense for physicians nearing retirement

Older physician caring for a patient while another healthcare worker sits in the background

Sandeep K. Aggarwal, MD, shares why he thinks physicians nearing retirement should consider locum tenens as a late-career alternative.

There are two instances when working locum tenens makes a lot of sense: The first is when you’re testing the waters after residency and fellowship training — working in different geographic areas that interest you can help you decide on a location and type of practice. The other time is late in your career, when you are nearing retirement but not quite ready to fully leave an established practice and patient base. Your options include working in areas around the country or staying local. However, you may ask why you would consider leaving a thriving practice completely when reducing your hours to part-time at your current job would make more sense, initially.

Why retiring physicians turn to locum tenens

Graphic listing reasons physicians may choose to work locums in retirement

There are a variety of reasons to consider locum tenens at the end of your career. Most physicians are employed either in hospital systems or large group practices and many find the administrative control burdensome.

Maybe running on the treadmill day after day to see more and more patients just to make ends meet for both the administration and your own salary is simply too tiresome.

Others yearn for the autonomy they had when they were in small group or solo practice prior to the sweeping changes in healthcare structure and economics.

Some physicians like to travel and see other parts of the country that are not necessarily always linked to vacation. This may be a good way to scout out areas for eventual full retirement.

Finally, there are noble reasons, such as filling in when there is a shortage of physicians in a specific location.

Get all the details: The pros and cons of locum tenens

Moonlighting and gig work in retirement

Provided there are no moonlighting clauses, you may be able to work in a part-time locum capacity during your vacation at your current place of employment. This is a good way to experiment with locums and see if it interests you. There is a learning curve to adapting to new environments and hospital systems, and leaving the comfort zone is also not always that easy, so this is a good way to ease into locum tenens.

In addition, the side gig economy has blossomed. Many physicians have been searching for work in positions linked to their field like consulting, telemedicine, writing, or legal work. Some pursue non-income-generating hobbies such as painting or gardening. Locums allows for greater expansion in any of these areas as there are fewer restrictions due to the greater degree of freedom.

Two physicians talking to each other in an office

Choose how much you want to work and when

Older physicians can work in various capacities with locums, including full-time inpatient with biweekly shifts or part- or full-time outpatient work in the clinic. You can work from one to four weeks a month or only occasionally as an adjunct to your current practice. All of these options offer a sense of autonomy and a rebirth of the passion you had for medicine in those early days when you first entered the field.

Physicians can choose their schedule when working locums

Locums does allow more autonomy.  For example, you can choose a hospital system that permits a mix of inpatient or outpatient care, including utilizing any technical skills and procedures. Depending upon your financial status, part-time work allows you to work less but still have the satisfaction of treating patients and staying up to date on skills without the administrative hassles or attention to RVUs inherent to employed positions. There is also an economic benefit.

A sense of purpose as a physician nearing retirement

Working full-time locum tenens as a late-career physician can be rewarding, challenging, and satisfying.

With the greater degree of sub-specialization these days, you may not necessarily see the wide spectrum of disorders that you treated during the earlier years of your practice or training. Locums allows you to maintain a comprehensive general practice with the flexibility to send to subspecialists when needed.

Furthermore, you can achieve a great sense of purpose by using the skills you learned in past practices to treat patients in underserved areas — while keeping up to date with your skills at the same time.

Text: Physicians can find a great sense of purpose working locums in underserved areas in retirement

In my experience, the staff and colleagues at these facilities are wonderful people who are compassionate and committed to taking care of the patients in their communities. They truly appreciate and value physicians who are willing to travel to their locations to help them achieve these goals.

Are you interested in learning more about locum tenens? Call 954.343.3050 to speak with a Weatherby consultant or view locum tenens opportunities.

About the author

Dr. Sandeep Aggarwal

Dr. Aggarwal is a general neurologist with subspecialization in electromyography. He was in active practice at a large teaching institution in Chicago from 1996 until he transitioned to full-time locums in January 2020. He is an avid reader, likes to write, and maintains an active lifestyle.