New Physicians, Rethink Your Career Path Before Your First Job

I recently came across an online discussion started by a graduating resident who was looking for advice on how to combat burnout. While the replies that followed offered all sorts of ideas, everyone seemed to agree that a rigorous schedule and stress and strain on work-life balance is par for the course.

Somebody even quipped that when practicing medicine, you can enjoy two of the following in any combination: 1) live where you want; 2) earn what you want; and 3) specialize in what you want, but it’s not possible to enjoy all three.

While many physicians would agree with that belief, I’d like to suggest considering locum tenens – this option proves that enjoying all three is possible.

Locum tenens is a highly respected practice alternative that offers physicians a full spectrum of professional opportunities in every type of practice across the country. Hospitals and healthcare facilities use locum tenens to cover for planned or sudden staff vacancies, and to strategically prepare for the highs and lows of patient demand. It’s become an especially attractive alternative for new physicians; among other things, it offers the opportunity to:

·         Gain real-world experience and build skill set

·         “Road test” different practice settings, options and locations so you can make informed decisions about which is right for you

·         Get an insider’s view of practice management and economics

·         Enjoy a flexible schedule so you can take time off to travel or pursue interests outside of medicine

·         Fill in the gap between residency and fellowship

·         Pay off medical school loans before making more financial commitments

·         Spend more time practicing medicine and forgo the politics

Don’t gamble with your career

Practicing medicine as a locum tenens buys you time to find your dream job while building up your CV. By working at a variety of practice models, you are demonstrating the ability to adapt to all different practice settings which can give you an edge over competing job candidates when the time is right.

If locum tenens interests you, it’s well worth your time to research healthcare staffing firms to help you find and prepare for job opportunities. Key considerations should include the company’s breadth of resources and contacts, as well as its reputation for integrity and customer service. Of course, pay is important but it’s only part of the picture; you want to be covered from travel and housing to licensure, credentialing and malpractice. A good resource to help you get started is the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO), an industry organization that ensures the fair practices and collaboration of physician staffing organizations.

Locum tenens is a career choice that puts new physicians in the driver’s seat. The work-life balance that eluded your predecessors is now within your reach—yes, you can have it all!

Melissa Byington is president of the locum tenens division of CompHealth, the nation’s leading provider of temporary and permanent physician staffing. She is also a current board member and past president of NALTO.