I first heard of locum tenens toward the end of my orthopaedic residency, and it was by word of mouth from my colleagues. Staff surgeons would leave for a few days intermittently to cover call at other hospitals, and I caught wind of this from the more senior residents buzzing about how much money they were making pulling these shifts. In my experience, most of us will hear about locums by word of mouth. However, locum agencies may sometimes contact you directly, for the most part because you were referred by a colleague or partner who already works with them. More often though, you have to seek them out. While locums has been extremely lucrative for me, what I’ve come to realize having worked locums for a good period of time now is that locums is about more than just the money.
Benefits beyond the money
Locum tenens is an invaluable resource for a number of reasons. It not only affords a substantial supplemental income, but it permits me to feel out a variety of different practice settings, not only in terms of location but in regard to the set-up and type of practice.
While you may choose to be a “professional locum”, most of us are looking to settle down at some point once we find the right fit for us. When selecting among the various jobs which are constantly available, you are in complete control of exactly what type of practice composition you take on as well as the type of cases you are doing. You might decide to choose just an ongoing bimonthly weekend call, a one-time two-week stretch of clinic with or without elective cases, or more often a combination of the above. Often the hospitals that are seeking coverage — while the jobs may often be presented as temporary — are amenable to a permanent position if the fit is good. Locums therefore affords you the opportunity to effectively “try out” and see if the practice is a good fit for you and vice versa.
The best advice I received early on was to get plugged in with locum tenens a few months prior to graduation from residency and to start the gears turning early. This way I was able to secure future jobs while allotting a sufficient amount of time for licensing, credentialing, and so forth, and ensuring a relatively seamless transition as I finished residency and went into practice.
Independent locums vs. agency locums
Now, if you’re sharp, you might ask: “Why go through a locum company and not just go straight to the source; cut out the middle man?” Clearly, locum tenens isn’t the only route through which you can find work outside your primary practice, and there are indeed advocates for contacting hospitals directly and avoiding the intermediary agency under the premise that you will make more money. For the most part, that is true, though the difference is in most cases marginal and comes at the cost of peace of mind.
I work locums through an agency because it affords me that peace of mind. Locum tenens agencies have the infrastructure in place. The agents have done and will do all the ground work. They are privy to the constantly changing needs of hospitals all over the country. They not only supply a daily and ever-changing list of these hospitals but break each down for you in terms of practice setting, type of coverage, duration, and compensation. They will negotiate your contracts for you as well. Moreover, they take care of everything, including travel, lodging, transportation, and perhaps most importantly, malpractice insurance. If I miss a flight, the agency will put me on the next one. I never have to worry about hotel vacancy or proximity. And I don’t have to purchase my own malpractice, which is extremely expensive and cumbersome to maintain. When you’re headed into to a foreign environment to work among people that you haven’t met before in a system that you’re unfamiliar with, having the all-inclusive care of the locum agency puts you at ease.
In summary, I work locum tenens because they allow me to maintain my skillset, give me the freedom to expand my scope of practice as I see fit, substantially supplement my income, and take care of me.
To learn more about working locum tenens with Weatherby Healthcare, call 954.343.3050 to speak to a consultant.