You've just landed your first locum tenens assignment. You're excited about this new opportunity, but at the same time, you're wary. You may ask yourself: “Is locum tenens right for me?” “Will I have a hard time landing back-to-back assignments?” “How will working locum tenens affect my career prospects? ”You have a lot of questions, and fortunately, many have gone before you who can answer them. Let's explore four common concerns that clinicians have when going on their first locum tenens assignment, and see what former and current locum tenens clinicians had to say about it.
"How do I make the transition to locum tenens?"
You will certainly notice the differences between working a permanent and locum tenens position. While it may take some adjusting initially, it won’t take long before you realize the many benefits of working locum tenens. Here are some tips to ease your transition from permanent to locum tenens.
Think of It Like a Test Drive
As a locum tenens clinician, you get to test drive various facilities and practices before you settle down in a specific location or facility. You also get to try out different schedules on relatively short assignments to see what you prefer in future positions. It's the perfect option for clinicians at many stages in their career - from new graduates to those nearing retirement.
Former VISTA physician, Dr. Eliot accepted her first locum tenens assignment after 25 years of working in the same practice. Every clinician’s experience is unique, but here’s what Dr. Eliot shared about her transition into locum tenens work: “I first considered locum tenens when I received a marketing postcard from VISTA [back in 2000], which portrayed a doctor running across a sunny meadow. At the time, I did not even know that such a thing as locum tenens work for physicians existed. The image on that postcard all those years ago definitely appealed to my wish to get out of what I perceived to be a rut, working 60+ hours per week with predominantly complex, geriatric patients.”
Build a Partnership with Your Recruiter
A locum tenens recruiter can provide a wealth of knowledge and experience. They have access to resources and connections that they'll put to work for you. Get to know your recruiter, ask questions about the process and count on him or her to help you adjust to your locum tenens position. For Dr. Eliot, her relationship with her recruiter was instrumental in her decision to work locum tenens: “My recruiter, Laurie, was extraordinarily personable, and very willing to work with me and find out what my needs and preferences were. She was meticulous in handling details.” Recruiters play a major role in helping you land assignments that best fit your interests, skills and experience.
"Does locum tenens guarantee job stability?"
Locum tenens assignments are temporary, but there are ways to find consecutive assignments and avoid gaps in employment. Former VISTA physician Dr. Guo offers this advice: “During the time I'm working, I start to plan for my next assignment to minimize unwanted gaps between contracts. It helps to have one or more sites that have an ongoing flexible need without minimum monthly commitments. I can modulate the number of shifts I take based on how busy I am.”
Locum tenens work is unpredictable by nature. Sometimes a situation changes, and you get invited to stay longer. Other times, an assignment may end sooner than expected. If you stay connected with your recruiter and plan ahead, you'll find there are a large number of locum tenens assignments available across the US, and you’ll have a better chance of landing an assignment when and where you want it.
"How will I fit in at my new facility?
Starting at a new facility is not always easy for locum tenens clinicians. But Dr.Smith, a current VISTA physician, shares some advice: “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.”
To Dr. Smith's great advice, we'd add:
- Despite the length of your locum tenens assignment, get to know the people on your team. You'll work better together as a result.
- Be flexible and open-minded about different work styles.
- Realize it's okay to ask questions. You're not expected to enter a new facility and know everything about their processes and systems.
- Speak with your recruiter regularly. They can help you gain insight about the worksite before you get there, and they'll help you quickly acclimate once you arrive.
You can find more help tips in Fitting in When You’re the New Guy: Locums Lifestyle Tips.
"How does locum tenens fit into my career plan?"
Working as a locum tenens clinician can help to advance your medical career. It allows you to gain experience in a variety of areas as you travel to different locations, which may consist of different practices, different healthcare systems and diverse patients. You'll also make connections with other experienced clinicians, and build a network of colleagues and mentors you can turn to when you need professional advice while on an assignment.
Dr. Guo shares his perspective: “I was able to get a sense of how a medical practice varies by area and by location. The system also matters - hospital owned groups, HMO groups and multi-specialty groups all use locum tenens, and getting a taste for each practice style is perhaps even more important than the location.”
If you have an idea about where you want your career to go, a recruiter can map out experiences that will help you get there. You'll learn a lot more - and faster - with diverse experiences through locum tenens assignments.
Your First Locum Tenens Assignment
Landing your first locum tenens assignment brings a lot of uncertainty. How will you fit in? How will you transition into the locum tenens lifestyle? Is becoming a locum tenens clinician a good career move? Consider this helpful advice from Dr. Eliot, Dr. Guo and Dr. Smith to ease your concerns, and take on your first assignment with confidence and assurance.