Should you try locum tenens after residency?

Read PracticeLink articles by Drew Terry
Drew Terry

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The life of a physician is often associated with earning a comfortable income. It doesn’t necessarily feel that way while in residency though, especially considering the cost often associated with medical school.

Locum tenens is one path some consider to gain a solid financial footing more quickly. Locum tenens means temporarily replacing someone and is the term often used for interim positions in health care.

Locums opportunities could be additional shifts for a current employer or shifts at another organization that you fill on top of your current role. They also could be more long-term positions that you accept in place of full-time employment with a single practice.

When researching the ins and outs of working locums, it’s easy to identify the benefits. However, it can come with some potential drawbacks, too.

Here are four pros – and some possible cons – to consider while researching whether locum tenens after residency is right for you.

Pros to locum tenens

  1. Earn extra income

Accepting locums shifts on top of a full-time role becomes an additional income source. And long-term locum tenens positions often feature higher pay than a comparable full-time position. Plus, travel, lodging and other expenses may be covered by the employer.

That means more money that can go directly toward paying off student loans, mortgage or other debt, or getting a strong, early start on your retirement account.

  1. Enjoy different parts of the country

Working locums full-time could be a most-expenses-paid way to experience what it’s like to live in different cities across the country. You’ll have to be sure to obtain to appropriate licenses and certifications for each location, but with lodging, travel and potentially other expenses being covered, it could be a way to see more locations while continuing to work.

  1. Appraise an organization

Committing to a long-term contract can feel like a big, well, commitment! It can be all the more daunting if you don’t feel like you have a good enough understanding of what it’s like to live in the community or be a full-time employee at the practice.

Locums positions give you a chance to gain first-hand knowledge of what it could be like to live and work somewhere. They allow you to get familiar with the processes of an organization, meet the people and get a true sense of what it’s like to be a part of it before making a long-term commitment.

  1. Gain experience

If you’re considering a fellowship but could use a break, locum tenens after residency could be a worthwhile option. It’s a way to gain general experience and better prepare you for fellowship by giving you a chance to gather experience treating patients.

That includes more time to see how organizations operate, get familiar with different records systems, and meet and collaborate with various teams.

Cons to locum tenens

  1. Adjust to time away from family

Travel is an aspect that cuts both ways. It’s a good way to see and experience different organizations parts of the country, but it also means potentially being long distances from family and friends.

Before accepting any roles, you should establish what is acceptable to you and your family.

  1. Deal with financial details

Making more money can be a bonus associated with locums, but it comes with some tradeoffs. One of those is finding another source for benefits like health insurance. This could be a spouse with a full-time job and access to a plan, or possibly a plan through an independent insurer.

Also, as an independent contractor, payroll taxes won’t be taken out of your pay, so you’ll need to account for that when managing and filing your taxes. When considering locum tenens as a career move, some locums even set up an LLC or PC to write off significant job-related expenses.

  1. Watch for burnout

Increased hours can lead to increased responsibility, stress and ultimately burnout. Be sure you self-monitor for the signs and keep burnout at bay.

Read PracticeLink articles by Drew Terry

Drew Terry

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