3 Times When Locum Tenens Provides a Break

January 18, 2017

Need a break from your regular job or just more family time? Locum Tenens is the way to go if you are a physician.

Even if you love your job, there are times when you need a break. In most professions, the only way to find respite is to take vacation or find a new place to work. Luckily, physicians have another option -locum tenens.  

Though some physicians work locum tenens full time, the majority work it in between or in addition to full-time jobs. Even if this means picking up extra shifts or using vacation time to work an assignment, many doctors say locum tenens actually makes them feel better about practicing medicine.

Here are three times when working a locum tenens assignment might give you the break you need.

When you're feeling underappreciated. Tammy Allen became a hospitalist because she wanted to give back. Her first locum tenens assignment was on a Navajo reservation in Chinle, Ariz.

"It was very, very rural," she recalls. "Many of the homes had no electricity and most of the roads were dirt. There was a grocery store and post office, and that was it. You had to drive two hours to get anything else."

Despite the area's isolation, she found something she had been missing in her day job. "The people were so nice and appreciative. It was awesome," she said. That feeling of appreciation kept Allen coming back to assignments in Arizona, including small border towns.

"I really enjoyed those small, rural places," she says.

When you're sick of meetings. Noel Lumpkin, an anesthesiologist and author of Road Warrior Physician, took her first locum tenens assignment more than a decade ago.

"One of the things I enjoy about locums is the thing that terrifies most people: It's never the same," Lumpkin says. "I might be one place one month and another place the next, and that's what keeps things exciting."

But more than the regular change of scenery, Lumpkin appreciates being able to focus solely on medicine. "I don't get enmeshed in all the other non-medicine details that drove me crazy, like all the meetings," she says. That's what I always joke about when people ask me why I do locums. I say, 'I haven't been to a meeting in 11 years!'"

When you need more time with your family. One of the top reasons physicians say no to locum tenens is family responsibilities. However, the reality is that a full-time physician job - especially in private practice - often leaves time for little else.

When Thomas O'Mara, pulmonologist in Marcellus, N.Y., signs up for a temporary assignment lasting more than a few weeks, he takes his family along with him. 

"I like to take my children because they can then go live in a different part of the world and live and learn the culture that they're in," O'Mara says. "They get to interact with the people, and that's learning that you just can't get out of a book."

Hopefully you have a great job that never gets old. But if you ever find you need a break from the stress and repetition of private practice, think about locum tenens. It may be just the change you need to reignite your love of medicine.