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The Real Reason Why Some Physicians Choose Locum Tenens


One common stereotype is there must be a “reason” a physician chooses locums. That’s absolutely true. But it may not be the reason you’re thinking of.

CompHealth recently surveyed a few thousand physicians about their perception of locum tenens. Though the practice dates back 35 years, we found that many doctors are still unfamiliar with how it works.

One common stereotype is there must be a “reason” a physician chooses locums. That’s absolutely true. But it may not be the reason you’re thinking of.
Here are a few reasons physicians take locum assignments at different points throughout their careers.

Recent Grads Testing the Waters
More and more, physicians are trying locums right out of residency or fellowship. Before they settle into a permanent position, they want to experience different practice settings - and even different parts of the country - to help figure out what they’re really looking for in a job.

A family medicine doctor recently told me, “Locums is the perfect way to test-drive a position, without actually binding yourself into a contract. It’s an opportunity to see what else is out there [beyond] residency. Because, as much as they say it is, residency is not real-life medicine.”

This physician noted that many of her residency peers quickly signed contracts - only to find it wasn’t the right fit - and then quickly moved on to the next job. She added, “When I want a permanent job, I want it to be permanent.”

Retired Docs Who Keep Practicing
Nearly 20 percent of the physicians we place are beyond retirement age. Most of these doctors tell me that just because they can retire, doesn’t mean they want to. They still love taking care of patients, but don’t want the daily burden of a running a practice.

Locums allows them to keep doing what they love, but on their own schedule - whether that’s a week each month, a few months a year, or almost full time. They can take assignments close to home, close to family, or near a place they’d just like to visit and explore.

Facilities love these physicians because they’re experienced, they’re reliable, and they’re great to work with.

Mid-career Physicians Taking Control of their Careers
Though we work with plenty of doctors during the bookends of their careers, the majority of our locum physicians are between the ages of 36 and 55. There are so many reasons why mid-career physicians look to locum tenens. Some use locums as a way to earn extra cash to pay for a wedding or to send children off to college. Others use locums as a way to quench their need for adventure.  

An 18-year locum told me, “I just want to keep wandering around and seeing the world. Everybody keeps asking me, ‘Why don’t you stay here?’ But the first thing I think about when I get to a new job is, ‘What’s the next thing I’m going to do?’”

Lately, we’re seeing doctors turn to locums to expand their maternity leave. These physicians work a few weeks at a time and then take several months off to focus on family. Others use locums to fund medical missions, to keep credentials current while living out of the country, or to just create more work-life balance. The list goes on and on.

There are plenty of reasons why physicians try locums. What’s your reason not to?

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