Seven Things to Consider Before Working as a Locums

Working as a locums physician has many benefits including increased freedom, flexibility, and the ability to earn more money. However, before deciding to work as a locums physician, there are five questions that you must ask yourself.

  1. Why do you want to work as a locums physician?

    Do you want more control over your schedule? Do you want more free time? Do you want to make extra money? Do you want to work as a locum temporarily while you are searching for permanent employment? Or do you want to work as a locums physician because you don’t like your current job and think the “grass will be greener” on a locums job.

    Well, I am here to tell you that the “grass is not always greener” on a locums job. Like one of my recruiters told me, there is a reason that these places use locums doctors. Once you get to an assignment, you will oftentimes find out very shortly why you are there and why they can’t recruit or retain permanent physicians.

    Knowing your “why” will give you the motivation not only to pursue working as a locum but to keep working as a locum when times get challenging.

    I work as a locums physician because I get to control my own schedule and it gives me the opportunity to pursue my entrepreneurial interests.

  1. Do you like change or are you resistant to it?

    Working as a locums physician requires you to work in different locations for a temporary period. While working at that assignment, you must learn a new system, get familiar with a new staff, and adapt to a new organization culture. If you are a person who does not like to change, then you may want to reconsider working as a locums physician.

  1. Are you willing to travel?

    In order to maximize your success with being a locums physician, you must be willing to travel to your assignments. While you may be able to find locums assignments locally, chances are, you are going to have to travel. You may find assignments within driving distance, or you may have to travel across the country.


  1. Are you even able to work as a locums physician?

    What is your current job situation? Are you currently in a contract as an employed physician? If so, does your contract allow you to do outside work activities? As we know, many employment contracts prohibit physicians from participating in any outside work activity. Furthermore, if your contract does allow you to moonlight, there may be a restrictive covenant that places a limitation on where you can work. For example, if the contract has a 5-mile restrictive covenant, even if it allows you to work other places while employed, you can’t go work at the hospital across the street or just down the block. Be sure to read your contract thoroughly to determine whether you can moonlight/work as a locum.

  1. Is your personal life conducive to you working as a locums physician?

    Are you married? Do you have children? Are you willing or able to be away from your family or significant other for an extensive amount of time? Do you have other familial obligations that will make it difficult for you to be away for an extended period?

    I have a friend who is a mother and works as a locums. When her son was a baby, she would bring him and her nanny with her on her locums assignments. Other working moms who travel for locums assignments may work shorter assignments to minimize their time away from their children. For example, instead of taking a 7-day assignment, they may work a weekend assignment in which they are away from home from Friday to Sunday.

    Furthermore, do you have a supportive spouse or significant other? Is your spouse going to be alright with you being away from home for an extended period? Do you think your personal relationships with your family, friend, and significant other are going to suffer because of all the traveling you will have to do while working as a locums?

  1. Are you willing to deal with the financial ramifications of working as a locums physician?

    You can earn a higher hourly rate while working as a locums physician as opposed to working as an employed physician. However, you must take a few things into consideration. First of all, while working as a locums physician, you are an independent contractor. This means that no taxes are withheld from your pay check and you are responsible for paying those taxes. Furthermore, while working as an independent contractor, you must obtain your own benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, and retirement plan. You need to have a good CPA and financial planner. If you are unwilling to deal with these issues, then you may want to reconsider working as a locums physician.

  1. Can you deal with uncertainty?

    Because a locum tenens physician is a “place holder”, your work assignments are temporary. They may range from a few days to a few months. Furthermore, any party can cancel a locums assignment by giving 30 days’ notice. Therefore, the nature of locums work is filled with uncertainty and you must always be looking for your next assignment.

To gain further clarity about whether or not to do locums, schedule your one hour Locums Strategy Session with Dr. Stephanie.

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