There is a lot to learn about being a locum tenens physician. Just ask any seasoned locum who has done this kind of work for a while. The nature of locum work takes a little time to get used to, even longer to master. Still, the new locum can make a very good career for him/herself with a little patience, a lot of hard work, and a willingness to learn all the ins and outs of this unique career opportunity.
Locum tenens staffing has created a very different way for doctors and nurses to practice. As such, there are some basic rules that apply to locum medicine. The five rules below are fundamental to creating a long-term locum career a doctor can ultimately be happy with.
Rule #1: Look Beyond Dollar Signs
New locums are usually tempted by dollar signs at some point. In other words, there is a tendency for them to look only at the highest paying assignments on the schedule despite the very real possibility that there are better assignments that pay less. New locums should avoid this temptation at all costs.
Every locum eventually discovers, over time, that money isn’t everything. Doctors discover there is a lot to be said about work environment, agreeable facility policies, coworkers they can get along with, etc. And as they discover, they mark certain facilities as one they should never return to.
Rule #2: Maintain Outside Interests
There is life outside of medicine. There, we said it. Now that this inconvenient truth is out of the way, the next fundamental rule for new locums is to not neglect themselves. Every new doctor has his or her own hobbies and interests. He/she has things he/she loves to do outside of the workplace. That new doctor should not neglect his/her interests and passions just for the sake of working as often as possible in the early stages of their career. It is those passions and interests outside of medicine that will sustain the doctor throughout his or her career.
Rule #3: Don’t Forget the Weather
It’s hard to believe that the weather makes all that much difference when you’re a new locum taking your first assignments. Seasoned locums note that it really helps to avoid locations where the weather drives them crazy. For example, a doctor who loves to ski should probably not take a winter assignment in South Florida.
Rule #4: Keep an Open Mind
One of the hallmarks of locum practice is being exposed to lots of different ways of doing things. Every new assignment brings new opportunities to learn that everyone doesn’t practice medicine the same way. The new locum needs to keep an open mind. He or she needs to be willing to learn. Otherwise, his/her rigid personality that cannot seem to flex will lead to career misery.
Rule #5: Invest in Family
Lastly, locum tenens work is superior to employment when it comes to flexibility. We encourage every new locum to make the commitment to invest in family via that flexibility. Far too many employed doctors and nurses miss out on the best years of family life because they’re working nonstop. Locums don’t have to do that. They largely control their own schedules, so not taking advantage of the flexibility of locum work to invest in family just makes no sense.
These five rules for new locums only scratch the surface. As previously mentioned, there is a lot to learn about this kind of work. Those who master it discover that the opportunities locum work affords can make a career as a locum incomparable to anything else.