More providers would do Locum Tenens if…..
This was one of the questions that was asked to some of our full time locum tenens providers at our 2014 Physician Panel. Without hesitation, Dr. Tina Passalaris answered “More providers would do locum tenens if they knew the freedom that it provides”. The rest of the panel agreed as they discussed how locum tenens has become an integral part of creating a balanced lifestyle for them and their families.
One provider commented on how she resides in Greece but flies out to the United States for 2 weeks out of the month to work locum tenens and spends the rest of her time with her family. Another provider talked about how he doesn’t tell his full time colleagues about the time he spends with a family in Mexico immersing his children in a new language and culture, because he worries they would be jealous.
Is this really feasible for most providers to have this type of lifestyle? Locum tenens is not for everyone, nor is working half of a month and spending the rest of it vacationing; but there are many ways that it can help to meet various objectives. My job as a consultant is to help surgeons understand the different ways that providers use locums.
The changing Locums landscape
Over the last few years, the locum tenens market has grown exponentially. There was once a time when locums had somewhat of a ‘stigma’ because it was thought that most providers should be busy in a full time practice. As we all know, the healthcare industry is quickly evolving and changing, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. More and more providers are now embracing locum tenens as a way to take ownership of their skill set. Here is a look at some of the many ways providers are using locum tenens, and often fall into multiple categories:
Supplemental income – perhaps most providers that do locum tenens fall into this category. Many surgeons work full time in a private practice or are hospital employed but seeking some additional income to supplement what they already make. Military surgeons often have built up leave time and want to use that to create income through locums assignments.
Try before you buy (TPO) - there has been a significant increase in both providers and facilities open to locum tenens assignments set up to pave the way for a permanent relationship. We all know the importance of having a great cultural fit between the facility and provider, temp to perm (TPO) opportunities allow for you work at the facility before signing a contract. In fact, many locum tenens opportunities unintentionally result in a contract buyout because it ends up being a good fit!
Not ready to retire & wanting more freedom – the baby boom generation is a large part of the locum tenens market. These surgeons are at a point in their career where they are healthy and want to work, but not carry the obligations of a full time practice on their shoulders. It is interesting to think that surgeons that fall into this category both create the supply and the demand!
The backup plan & in between permanent jobs – Some surgeons I work with become exposed to locum tenens when they unexpectedly experience a shift in employment due to cost cutting or hospital politics. These surgeons might be in between jobs and take on a locums assignment in between, but then realize the value of having a backup plan in place and keep working locums from time to time for this very reason.
Building up a private practice – Locum tenens work is a great way to bring in some additional income for surgeons who are building up their private practice. “Working locum tenens allows me to work around my demanding schedule in setting up a private practice,” Dr. Brian Harmych expresses. “I’ve been able to choose shorter-term assignments and choose exactly when I want to work.”
Travel, networking and new experiences – I recently sent a surgeon on a 6 month assignment for him and his wife in New Mexico during the winter. This surgeon has spent his career in Michigan and was just ready for a change of scenery. Another that I work, when asked why he does locums will reply “I do it because it is fun. I like meeting new people and exploring new facilities and work environments”.
Footloose and fancy free – For these providers, locum tenens gives them the freedom to choose when and where they want to work. Typically surgeons who fall in this category, income is secondary to living a lifestyle of freedom. When they are at work, they are at work; when they are at home, they are focused on being with their family, friends or hobbies.
The Locums Professional – This is the surgeon who has carefully built up a portfolio of facilities to work at, has strategically gained licenses in multiple states to optimize the amount of opportunities available. This type of provider knows the inside and outside of the locums industry and has the flexibility and freedom to work when and where they would like.