Living the Dream as a Locums Surgeon

As a Locums Physician Representative, the most engaging thing for me is to find a surgeon who is looking for a better work-life balance and help them on the path to being able to work ‘when’ and ‘where’ they want to. This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but for those with an adventurous spirit it can be an amazing opportunity. Just like building a business, having a successful locums lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. It requires building a reputation, being flexible, acquiring multiple licenses and learning about the locums market. Once a foundation has been built, the possibilities are endless.

Let me paint the picture for you: 

One of my doctors, we’ll call him “Dr. M”, describes this lifestyle as ‘Living the Dream’. Dr. M does not have a full time job, he has been a locums surgeon for the last 6 years. Dr. M doesn’t have to worry about ‘administrative and corporate BS’. He has every holiday that he wants off and I don’t ever bother asking him about taking an assignment if it is close to Thanksgiving or Christmas. He takes 2 weeks off in November for Hunting Season. He takes off a week in February and March for snowboarding in Utah or Colorado. He takes a couple weeks off in the summer for a family fishing trip. Dr. M lives on a large property in the Northeast with several ponds and a hundred acres of land where he can both hunt and fish on. Dr. M is a martial arts expert with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Whenever I call Dr. M to ask how he is doing, the most common response I get is “I’m just living the dream”.

Dr. M is board certified in Colon & Rectal Surgery, General Surgery and Surgical Critical Care. He prefers to do Trauma assignments, meaning he is on call at busy Level 1 and Level 2 trauma centers and helps save the lives of people who have been in serious automobile accidents, gunshot wounds, stabbings, falls and other accidents. He absolutely loves teaching residents and support staff. Any assignment that he is on, he proactively finds opportunities to share his knowledge and his passion for saving lives. On most week long assignments, Dr. M can be compensated $17,000-20,000 for alternating ‘in house’ (primary) and ‘backup’ (call taken from a hotel) shifts.

A few years back there were some trauma centers being built in Florida so Dr. M and I worked on a license in that state. A few years have passed since we got the license but we finally put it to good use in Panama City, a town that is in the Pan Handle of Florida but also wiped out in the hurricane of September 2018. The hospital there had been closed for about 5 months and still being rebuilt, but now has the trauma program up and running. I called him to check in on his most recent locums set, he said he had one rough night were he saved a patient from multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen, aorta and other extremities. This earned him the respect of the other surgeons and support staff at the hospital, and of course Dr. M is eager to return.

Dr. M is a hero and his day job is to save lives. To him it is ‘just what he does’. Patients always come first for Dr. M. There isn’t a lot of downsides to Dr. M’s career except for the occasional flight delays when he travels to and from locums assignments. Dr. M also absolutely hates doing paperwork, some of which can be very redundant. Unfortunately paperwork is a something that is required for both a locums and a full time/perm surgeon. Again, locums as a lifestyle isn’t for everyone but this gives you a short snapshot of the life of one of the many full-time locums surgeons that I work with. This is exactly why I love my job, there is nothing more fulfilling than helping a surgeon create more time to enjoy life and escape the endless demands that some surgeons describe their life as.

The day after Dr. M saved the patient with multiple gun-shot wounds in Panama City, he sent me this photo:

Having some down time on the beach in Panama City during back up call.

Having some down time on the beach in Panama City during back up call.Panama City is still recovering from the 2018 Hurricane, but it has been an amazing tourist location and a fun place to send some of the trauma surgeons that I work with. Certainly not all locations that we send our locums surgeons to are as beautiful as Panama City, in fact many are in rural areas in the mid-west where it may be harder to recruit permanent candidates. 


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