Locum tenens is now seen as a more lucrative full-time option for doctors than it was in the past. Indeed, a lot of young doctors just getting started use locum tenens to figure out what they want to do before accepting something more permanent. Older doctors are turning to locum work to transition to retirement.
The fact is that there are as many reasons for going full-time locum as there are doctors making the choice. But doctors should think things through before making the leap. Locum medicine is definitely a great way to practice, but it is not right for everyone.
The Pay Is Excellent
Among the motivating factors that lead doctors to pursue full-time locum work is the pay. Depending on specialty, doctors can earn from several hundred dollars per day to thousands. Furthermore, a typical locum contract is written so that providers are compensated by the hour. Hourly work opens the door for overtime which, as we all know, can pay quite handsomely.
This suggests that going full-time locum might be a wise decision for the doctor trying to pay off student loans as quickly as possible. It is also a way for younger doctors to spend a few years earning more while putting away their excess earnings in some sort of retirement plan.
The Freedom Factor
Locum doctors are essentially self-employed contractors who may, or may not, work through staffing agencies to find their gigs. At the end of the day though, they are completely responsible for everything they do. This offers a tremendous amount of freedom that manifests itself in many ways.
Doctors are free to decide how many weeks per year they want to work. They can decide whether to take time off between contracts and, if so, how much time to take. There are other freedoms as well. The point is this: freedom as a self-employed contractor is a great thing if you know how to manage it. With every freedom comes responsibility – even in medicine.
The Part-Time Option
Doctors thinking of going full-time locum should step back and ask themselves why they are considering doing so. If they are motivated simply by earning a bit more than they currently earn as an employee, they should also consider the possibility of part-time locum work.
Working part time still affords some extra income without disrupting the employed doctor’s entire life. There are always shifts available, somewhere, for an employed doctor to pick up some extra hours. Just look at any emergency department or hospital-based clinic. The need is there.
The Career Potential
One last thing to consider is career potential. There are some specialties, like primary care, in which working as a locum for an extended amount of time is a career enhancement. There are other specialties that still have a negative opinion of locum work to the extent that eventually finding a permanent placement job could be more difficult. Psychiatry is one of them.
Before going full-time locum, it is important that the doctor look carefully at his or her long-term plans. A clinician who wants to make full-time locum work a lifelong career is all set to go. But another who thinks future employment is a possibility needs to consider how locum work will affect hiring prospects down the road.
Locum tenens medicine is not only here to stay, but it is already playing a vital role in how healthcare is delivered to patients. Any doctor choosing to go full-time locum will certainly have plenty of opportunities to practice, help patients live better lives, and earn a good living doing so.