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Got the Student Loan Blues? Pay Off Medical School Debt with Locum Tenens

Posted by VISTA Staffing on Aug 9, 2017 8:30:00 AM

iStock-594945306.jpgWhat do almost all medical school graduates have in common? This isn’t a clever riddle. The answer is enormous debt.

In 2015, the average medical school debt balance for graduating physicians was $183,000. Added to the average undergraduate balance of $24,000, the total average student loan balance for a doctor was a staggering $207,000—and that number is no doubt even higher today.

Whether you’re just out of school or not, locum tenens can provide a great opportunity for physicians and advanced practice providers to pay down student loans and other debt. How does locum tenens work set you up for financial success? Three big ways.

The Power of Negotiation

A shortage of clinicians across the country means demand is high across specialties, which also means pay rates for locum tenens professionals are highly competitive—and the power is in your hands. As a locum tenens clinician, your contract and salary are negotiable, and offers are yours to accept or decline. Pay rates may be higher where patient volume is above average, in remote areas of the country where services are less accessible or where a position has been vacant awhile. But note that if you ask around, you’re unlikely to see a drastic difference in locum tenens pay rates offered for the same specialty from facility to facility. Contract negotiations can extend beyond pay rate to things like schedule and shift preferences, too.

Smart Financial Planning Opportunities

As a locum tenens provider, you are an independent contractor, so income and social security taxes are not withheld from your paycheck as they would be if you were a full-time employee. If you’re unprepared, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise come tax time! However, with the right planning, you can make the independent contractor model work to keep more money in your pockets. One step to take is to “escrow” or set aside a percentage of your earnings when setting up your 1099 at the beginning of each year working as a locum tenens provider. This means no unmanageable sum due in April, and also you may find you can better focus on paying off debt throughout the year.

If you decide to take a permanent placement instead, locum tenens can still provide a way to tackle debt. Consider working locum tenens during paid time off, so you can earn double with your vacation days!

A Partner on Your Side…

When you work through a trusted staffing agency, you have someone in your court that can help you plan your future, not just find your next job. At VISTA, our primary concern is matching you with assignments that fit your requirements, including a pay rate you think is fair. Keep the lines of communication open with your recruiter and make financial goals like paying off debt known, so they can help you reach them faster.

If you’re a recent medical school graduate looking for more tips, or you’re ready to get started with a career in locum tenens, we’re here to help. Contact us or visit our job board to explore potential opportunities.

locum tenens

Topics: Physicians, Advanced Practice Providers

About VISTA Staffing Solutions

VISTA Staffing Solutions has 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, employs approximately 1,000 people between corporate staff and field clinicians and contracts with over 2,500 physicians across 60+ specialties and subspecialties annually. 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.