If you’re approaching the end of your residency, then you’re probably in the process of searching for jobs and deciding where/in what type of setting you want to work. Despite your new-found freedom, this can be a stressful time as you try to find a job that will help you pay off your student loan debt and fulfill your career goals. But the good news is that you don’t have to commit to a long-term job right away (or at all, for that matter). Hospitals throughout the country are offering temporary jobs for physicians that could allow you to pay off your debt, travel, and gain broad work experience without tying yourself down to a fixed schedule or location. While it may not be the right choice for everyone, locum tenens is an excellent career path for young physicians looking to explore the variety that their field has to offer.
One of the most obvious benefits of locum tenens is the opportunity to try out a job before committing to it. Locum assignments can be as short as a couple of weeks or even a couple of days, letting you test the waters before you tie yourself down. As a doctor right out of residency, this can be a great way to get a feel for what it’s like working in a variety of settings. You could pick up some weekend shifts at a small-town practice in your home state, spend your summer at a Critical Access Hospital in the Alaskan wilderness, or try out a busy urban setting for a few months. Working locums can help you learn what type of job you enjoy without the danger of getting stuck long-term at a job that you don’t.
In exploring these different practice settings, you can also build up your CV in a way that gives you an advantage when applying for other jobs. By working at multiple hospitals or practices, you will gain experience with a variety of hospital volumes, procedures, EMR systems, and more. When hiring, many hospitals seek candidates experienced with similar volumes or specific EMR systems, and locum work could be the perfect way to get that experience right out of residency. And while locum assignments are, of course, temporary, they can also help you establish a relationship with a hospital that lasts for years or even morphs into a permanent job. Working at multiple hospitals can give you a wider range of career options to choose from or fall back on in the future. So even if locum tenens isn’t your long-term career goal, it could still aid you in landing that permanent job you’re looking for.
Many new graduates also choose locum tenens as a way to travel after so many years of schooling. Since doctors are in high demand everywhere, you can find locum opportunities in virtually any location you would like to explore or are considering moving to. Maybe you would like to unwind on the beaches of Florida or spend your summer hiking in Montana, or maybe you would like to try out living in a big city like New York or Los Angeles. Whatever your preference, you can find jobs as close to or as far from home as you like. This also makes locum tenens a great option if you have a spouse whose schooling or career requires them to travel or relocate. Locum tenens gives you the flexibility to work wherever you choose for as long as you choose.
Along with flexibility of location, locum assignments give you control over your own schedule, allowing you to fit in time for family, travel, continuing education, and more. If you’re feeling burnt out after residency, you could choose to work shorter shifts, part-time, or with no call. You could also work a busy schedule for a short amount of time and then take the summer off to travel or spend time with family. Since there is so much demand for temporary physician coverage throughout the country, you can find assignments that keep you as busy or as free as you want to be, allowing you time to study for a board examination or just explore a new place without the burden of being on-call.
Finally, locum assignments are a smart financial choice for new physicians looking to pay off debt or save on housing costs. With travel, housing, licensing fees, and malpractice insurance covered, you can avoid overhead costs, and hospitals—particularly those in remote or rural areas—often pay highly competitive rates for temporary coverage. If you’re looking to earn a large paycheck right out of residency, then locum tenens is a good way to go, especially if you would like to fit in some all-expense-paid travel at the same time. For more information about locum tenens pay rates, check out our honest guide.
If you want the freedom to choose when and where you work and explore new places and career paths, then locum tenens is a great way to do this. While it may not provide the continuity of a permanent job, for physicians who can adapt quickly and are willing to be flexible, it can be a great way to avoid burnout, fill out your CV, and earn a large paycheck. If you would like to learn more about working locums, please leave a question in the comments below or feel free to reach out to Fusion’s friendly staffing experts.