Want more control over your life and your working hours? Consider locum tenens, which provides greater schedule flexibility so you can attain a better work/life balance.
Locum tenens as a full-time career choice
One physician who works locum tenens full-time is Dr. Anita Haugabrook (Doc Nita). She started locum tenens transitionally after leaving a full-time partner role but soon fell in love with its many benefits, especially its flexibility. She works only when she wants to, which means she can avoid weekends and nights, and she takes time off between assignments. She says that she has not only regained a work/life balance, but has been able to take control of her destiny.
“I get to practice medicine,” Doc Nita says. “When I was burned out, I wasn’t able to see the joy in my work anymore, and I went into medicine to make a difference, to get people well, and to see the joy in people when they’re feeling better. I feel like I’m helping people again.”
A better physician work/life balance
Both international locum tenens doctors and domestic locums doctors say that the better work/life balance and shorter workweeks they enjoy is one of the biggest benefits of locums.
Domestic locums make more per hour, and as a result work fewer hours on average. A survey by Hanover Research, conducted in partnership with CHG Healthcare, found that physicians who work full time at a permanent position typically work more hours than physicians who work locum tenens positions.
On international assignments, the great work/life balance often surprises U.S. physicians. In New Zealand and other countries, locums physicians typically work just 40 hours a week and get several weeks of vacation — and a tea break in the afternoon, too. Even full-time doctors in New Zealand typically work fewer than 50 hours a week, according to the New Zealand Medical Workforce in 2017 report. Several physicians discuss their vacation time and the places they visited here.
What doctors say about a better work/life balance
Dr. Sara Jalali took a six-month international locum tenens assignment in New Zealand through Global Medical Staffing, and she says it rejuvenated her passion for medicine.
“Only three years out of residency, I already started feeling burned out. Coming here has reminded me why I went into emergency medicine in the first place. This is what I always thought practicing in my field would entail,” she says.
Dr. Raymattie Singh took her first locums position when her full-time hospitalist contract was ending, and she loves it so much that she has made it her new lifestyle.
“I worked hard most of my life to attain the dream I was told I had to have, and I did,” she explains. “The five-bedroom house, fancy cars, diamond jewelry… I had it all. But the more things I procured, the more I felt I was missing. I was tired of the agonizing repetition of every day. When I started traveling to strange places while working as a physician, I was unbelievably happy. Creating bonds of lifelong friendships with people from all walks of life rejuvenated my soul.”
Dr. Eva McCullars says that she appreciates the following benefits of locums: having a work-life balance for the first time in her career, making a comfortable income while going to places she has always wanted to explore, and getting to spend more time with patients and less time on office politics and other distractions.
“I like the freedom,” Dr. McCullars explains. “I wouldn’t go back to a full-time permanent position.”
Other benefits of the locums lifestyle
Dr. Chad Koyanagi, a psychiatrist in Hawaii, uses domestic locums as a way to give back to the community. Through locums, he takes a difficult-to-fill shift at a Kona hospital and earns more money on that shift, which allows him to spend time working with the Institute for Human Services to help homeless people who need treatment.
“There are so many homeless people in paradise,” Dr. Koyanagi explains. “Honolulu has the worst homeless problem in the entire nation. A good example is Donna in ‘Prescribing Hope’ [documentary]. She had been gravely disabled in our community for a couple of decades. Through our work, she was able to get the help she needed and was able to be successfully placed in independent housing.”
Regain control of your destiny
Kari Redfield is a professional content marketing writer. She also is a novelist and writes for newsstand magazines and has had work appear in publications such as Arizona Highways, Sedona Magazine, and American Fitness. And like the locums physicians profiled in these stories, she loves the flexibility and new experiences that her unique job provides, and loves to travel. She has been known to spend weeks in the U.S. West in her Aliner, checking out classic trad rock climbs, epic mountain bike rides, and other adventures while writing from the road.