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My Career Path As a Locum Tenens Doctor - Fulfilling a Family Legacy and Loving It! (Dr. EmmaLeigh Smith)

Posted by VISTA Staffing on Sep 17, 2018 2:00:00 PM

Deciding to start working locum tenens right out of residency isn’t something a lot of new physicians do, but it’s a decision Dr. EmmaLeigh Smith, a Family Medicine Physician, embraced wholeheartedly. Almost seven years after she started working locum tenens through VISTA, we caught up with Dr. Smith who is currently working in Portland to talk about her experiences and  why she is “still loving it!”

Why Locum Tenens?

Dr. Smith learned about locum tenens during her third year of residency and was drawn to the idea of getting to work and travel. While her residency was supportive of her decision, they couldn’t provide much information or guidance. Fortunately, her father had done something similar in his work as a pharmacist, so Dr. Smith knew a little bit about what to expect. “It was exciting to think that I could do the same thing,” she told us.

While she started working locum tenens with the intention of doing it for just a few years before taking a permanent job, Dr. Smith is still loving the lifestyle locum tenens offers her after nearly seven years. “I do entertain getting a ‘real job’ every once in a while, but then I get that itch to move on and explore a new part of the country.”


There are many reasons physicians choose to work with VISTA when deciding to work locum tenens positions. For Dr. Smith, VISTA’s personalized service and help along the way helped make her decision easy.

“I really took a leap of faith when I started with VISTA,” Dr. Smith recalled. “I did some searching on the internet for information about other agencies, but I kept getting pulled back to VISTA. VISTA felt more like a family, and they walked me through the entire process from start to finish. I really felt like VISTA had my best interests in mind to help me find assignments that were a perfect fit,” she added.

Dr. Smith also praised VISTA’s support with initial certifications and state licensing, the renewal process, and their assistance while on assignments. “Although rare, they can also take care of problems during the assignment. Whenever I had a problem with housing or some issue, VISTA was very quick to remedy the situation. I never have to ask twice for something.”

Flexibility to Control Your Own Career

One of the reasons many physicians choose locum tenens is because of the travel opportunities. In fact, this was one of the primary reasons Dr. Smith chose locum tenens as a  career option. “I absolutely love getting to travel and set my own schedule. I get to pick where and when I want to work. You can’t beat that!”

While doctors in traditional roles often struggle with work/life balance, Dr. Smith has been able to achieve it through her work with VISTA. “The locum tenens lifestyle gives me time off to pursue other things that I love – spending time with family, volunteering at a children’s oncology summer camp, scaring willing victims at some local haunted houses and vacationing around the world.”

As Dr. Smith pointed out, flexibility is a two-way street; physicians working locum tenens also need to be flexible. “You need to be open to various locations and types of work… In my experience, if you are flexible and can fit into the current clinic mold without trying to change everything at once, it makes everything a whole lot easier.”

While On Assignment, Learn About the Location – And About Yourself

One of the most surprising things Dr. Smith learned about locum tenens work is that it pushed her out of her own comfort zone, encouraging her to get out to see the local sights and meet new people in each location where she’s worked.

“In the clinic setting, it has encouraged me to be more independent and adaptable. Different areas have different resources, different disease prevalence and different ways of practicing medicine. There’s a steep learning curve with each new assignment, but I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I finally feel like I am ‘in the groove’ at a new place.”

So, which location was Dr. Smith’s favorite? When we asked her, she couldn’t pick just one. “Each assignment has had at least something special.”

To explore locum tenens opportunities and to learn more about VISTA, contact us online or call us today at 800-366-1884.

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Topics: Stories From VISTA Physicians, VISTA, Licensing & Credentialing, Physicians, Facilities & Practices, Advanced Practice Providers, Interview/Hiring Tips


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About VISTA Staffing Solutions

VISTA Staffing Solutions has over thirty years of experience providing award-winning customer service to clients and providers alike. Headquartered in Salt Lake City with additional offices in Atlanta and Houston, and employs approximately 1,000 people between corporate staff and field clinicians and contracts with over 2,500 physicians across 60+ specialties and subspecialties. VISTA helps U.S. hospitals, medical practices, and government agencies optimize their physician staffing, ensure quality and continuity of care for patients, and maintain financial stability. As a leading provider of U.S. Locum Tenens and Permanent Physician Search Services, VISTA also operates VISTA Select, a first-of-its-kind technology and services solution utilizing advanced data and analytics to provide healthcare organizations with customizable workforce optimization solutions.