After my internship, I was a Navy flight surgeon for three years. Then I took a Navy residency at Bethesda Naval Hospital and practiced for several years at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, VA. I left active duty in 1969 to become chairman of the radiology department at University Hospital in Jacksonville, FL, where I worked with a five-person group for many years. Eventually the group fell victim to political dealings that lead to our break up.
You know, a practice break up is a lot like a divorce. You feel guilty. You have to split up friends and redefine loyalties. But like a divorce, things usually end up much better.
Instead of getting into another permanent radiology job, I decided to try locum tenens. It wasn’t as well known back then—I’ve worked locums assignments for 20 years! But it did more for me than I ever expected.
You don’t always realize how much you are giving up to run a practice—how much time you are spending away from home, how many hours you have to work to cover your overhead. Locum tenens radiology jobs get you back to what you enjoy—pure medicine. Your hours are set and you know what to expect up front from each job. Your professional liability insurance, travel, housing, and rental car are paid for, so what you earn is essentially free and clear. About the only thing you pay for is meals and calling home.
I’ve learned a lot about myself too. Until I started working locum tenens, all of my radiology jobs had been in large hospitals. Through locums I found that my place really is in smaller hospitals and smaller towns. The people are friendly. You don’t fight traffic to get there every day. And they appreciate the help so much. You know you are making a contribution to the community or to the other radiologists who are working there.
At last count I have worked in 42 hospitals and 21 clinics. (It’s important to get new licenses because it really opens up new opportunities. At my peak, I had 19 state licenses.) I do a lot of return engagements, because I make friends and feel responsible for helping them out, for keeping them going. But I always try to mix in a few new jobs to keep things fresh. I don’t really consider it a career. It’s fun. It keeps me young.