Here are the three upsides of locum tenens medicine that I’ve noticed over the last year while working as a locum tenens urologic surgeon.
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In the past year, I’ve embraced the dual roles of a locum tenens physician and a real estate investor. While I’ve previously shared the challenges of locum tenens, such as job insecurity, family separation, and solitude, I also experienced its positive aspects. After all, there’s a reason why I’m still doing it after all these months.
So below, I’ll delve into these benefits to balanced out the prior perspective. I’ve ordered them from least important to most important (at least in my view).
Watch the video on YouTube below or continue reading for the blog version!
The Handoff System: A Relief from Nonclinical Overload
In my Southern California full-time physician role, nonclinical tasks like managing patient messages, lab results, and notes consumed about two hours daily. This is based on an actual study my institution did that tracked the amount of time physicians spent logged into the electronic medical system outside of their set work hours.
This spillover of non-clinical work into personal time is a significant contributor to physician burnout. However, as a locum tenens physician, this burden lifts once the assignment ends. Effective handoff systems, involving either mid-level professionals or the next locum physician, ensure a smooth transition, allowing me to disengage completely once off duty. These systems are intrinsic to the role of a locum tenens.
This significant reduction in nonclinical busywork is, in my experience, is a huge advantage for locum tenens. I know that when I head back to Memphis, there’s very little work that’s going to follow me home.
Higher Compensation: Efficient Income Generation
The second factor that is an upside of locum tenens is the compensation.
Locum tenens typically offers higher hourly compensation than full-time positions. In my opinion, this is a reflection of basic supply and demand dynamics and the inconvenience associated with travel.
It makes sense, since when a hospital needs the services of locum tenens, they are admitting that there is an insufficient supply of local physicians to meet their needs. Since their demand for services is higher than their supply, they’re willing to pay a higher than normal rate to bring in outside help. Hospitals also need to compensate for the inconvenience of travel, which adds to the rate as well.
In my experience as a locum tenens urologic surgeon, I’ve found that despite working only a third of the month, I can generate approximately as much income as a month’s work as a full time (employed) urologist. This efficiency in generating income, while varying across specialties, is a huge benefit of locums.
Autonomy Over Time: The Ultimate Upside
The most significant advantage, however, is the autonomy over my schedule.
Locum tenens work can be very demanding when I’m on duty. For example, when I travel for a gig, I’m generally on call 24/7 for the entire week. If I get destroyed by ER consults one night, I can’t rely on the next day to recover like I could when I shared rotating call duties with a group of 13 other urologists. I still have to get up and take care of all of the rounding, consult duties, and scheduled surgery cases the next day.
But despite the on-call responsibilities and potential emergencies, I know that my demanding week is a conscious choice. I decide the duration and location of my assignments, and once completed, the time off is entirely mine.
This autonomy allows me to indulge in my myriad of other professional interests, like real estate investing and my upcoming new business of offering passive real estate investments to others.
I also love having a social media platform to talk about issues that are important to me. This control over my schedule is a stark contrast to the rigidity of full-time work and a key factor in my career longevity. In contrast, lack of autonomy is a huge factor that contributes to rampant burnout in the majority of physicians practicing today.
While locum tenens has its challenges, the advantages of reduced nonclinical work, enhanced compensation, and autonomy over time significantly contribute to its appeal. I fully believe that without locums, I’d be stifled in my ultimate goals of building community and businesses on my ongoing quest for growth and contribution.
— The Darwinian Doctor
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