One of the most frequent questions I get is for advice on if one should pursue locums as a career. I thought I would compile a post that might help give some direction on this topic and help give some insight into the considerations that must be made before taking on this type of a career change. Locums is something that has become incredibly attractive as a career due to the flexibility that it can create. Some of the people I work with can literally work when and where they want, but the ability to do that did not come overnight. While locums in general can be a great fit for almost anyone, doing it as a career certainly isn’t. This article and the ones following will shed some light into some important topics to consider.
Locums Mindset – Embrace the Adventure
As with anything, locums has it’s ‘risks’ in that it can have peaks and troughs, feast or famine, at times. To do locums as a career, one must have a personality or mindset that will not panic if there are times when locums jobs might not be as robust. An analogy I like to use would be the stock market: Some investors check their stocks every day and get worried about the inevitable ups and downs that come with the market. Other investors have confidence that although there will be ups and downs, they will be fine in the long run and that their investments will pay off handsomely over time. The same applies with locums, you must have the mental flexibility and financial foundation to be able to handle some peaks and troughs in locums work. A proper foundation (covered in a future article) will help a candidate maximize their success and have a continual flow of opportunities to choose from.
I had a surgeon that I recently was referred to who was interested in doing locums work to free up some more time for travel and family. He had worked most of his career dedicated to his practice which was at the expense of family time and ready to make a change. Once we started down the locums path, I realized he could be incredibly successful at locums, and we got him booked for a locums assignment quickly. He had a great skill set, clean malpractice history and was excellent at building rapport. He mentioned some of his concerns in making a big transition in leaving his practice and going into locums as a career and we discussed at length the pro’s and con’s. In the end, the surgeon decided that locums didn’t provide as much stability as he needed and ended up taking another permanent position.
What type of a personality do you have? Do you embrace adventures and a certain amount of ‘uncertainty’ when turning a new page in life? Or does uncertainty cause you a lot of stress and worry? Do you have the confidence that things will work out the way they need to if you plan and prepare as best as you can? How have you handled big changes in the past?
Locums has its ‘risks’ but so do private practices or employed positions. I get calls all the time from surgeons who talk about big shifts in their hospital or competition from other practices cutting into their business. In fact, quite often these big changes are the driving factor that cause a lot of people to inquire about the possibilities with locums. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, there is a place for most anyone to do locums, but to do it as a career requires the confidence to be able to weather the peaks and troughs. Many of the people I work with that do locums as a career embrace times when there are slower and use this time for vacations, hobbies and family times. When jobs are robust they work as much as possible and maximize their income. They are flexible with the ebbs and flows of locums work and they don’t consider locums nearly as risky as the ever changing landscape of healthcare. Locums and permanent positions both have their ‘risks’, it’s more of a matter of your perspective.
At the end of the day, what you put into locums is what you will get out of it. If you are doing locums as a career, this is your profession and you must treat it as such. If you ‘dip your toe in’ that is probably what you will get out of it. If you make the proper preparations and treat it as a business, your locums career will be robust. This is true with practically anything in life, what you put in is what you’ll get out of it. The freedom that locums can provide has its tradeoffs, and if this is something that you do as your career, part of that tradeoff is to embrace what some consider ‘uncertainty’. In future articles, we’ll discuss proper preparation for making a transition to locums as a career.