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Why Transitioning to Locum Tenens Could Boost Career Satisfaction


New survey results suggest that many locum tenens physicians may be more satisfied than other physicians.

I’ll admit that when I see an article with data points or survey results, I tend to pay more attention and give the argument more weight. Last summer, Physicians Practice published an article about how practice setting affects physician career satisfaction. I was intrigued by the results.

A few things stood out to me:

• Only about half of physicians employed by hospitals or practices strongly agreed with the statement, “I like being a physician.”
• Among practice owners, the most common reason for wanting to change jobs was to “get more time in my personal life.”
• 60 percent of respondents said they wanted to work fewer hours per week.

Over the years, I’ve worked with thousands of locum tenens physicians. Many of them describe locums as a “best-kept secret.” I hear stories from physicians that have found personal balance and an increased satisfaction and meaning in their work through locum tenens.

But these were all just stories. I didn’t have any hard data to prove my assumption that overall, locum tenens physicians are more satisfied than what data suggests for the physician profession as a whole.

Last month, CompHealth surveyed nearly 3,000 locum tenens physicians across dozens of specialties. Here’s what we learned from our respondents:

• 67 percent said locum tenens allows the type of work-life balance they desire.
• 69 percent said they spend less time on paperwork as a locum tenens physician (for pathologists, that number jumps to 92 percent).
• 65 percent would recommend locum tenens as a way to find a full-time position (great news for those looking for a change of scenery or a new boss).

We also asked these doctors what they enjoy most about working locum tenens. Though physicians were free to write whatever they wanted, the answers were surprisingly similar. Response after response mentioned “freedom” or “flexibility.”

These words also come up when I speak directly with doctors. Many physicians pursue private practice because they want the autonomy to determine who they hire, how they practice medicine, and where they spend their time. Unfortunately, an unintended byproduct of that freedom and flexibility is stress - the stress of managing a team, meeting budgets, and working long hours.

Locum tenens physicians, however, enjoy the flexibility of choosing when they’ll work, for how long, and in what type of setting; and the freedom to practice medicine without dealing with mounds of paperwork and other administrative hassles.

That’s not to say that locums is for everyone. One respondent shared the frustration of not being able to influence long-term change through a temporary position, and 10 percent of respondents said the challenges of locums tenens work do not outweigh the benefits.

But for the most part, locums seem to be pretty satisfied with the work they do. In fact, nearly 70 percent of our survey respondents said they would recommend locum tenens to other doctors who are looking to improve work-life balance.

If your job satisfaction is in question, maybe locum tenens is the answer.


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