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Why Do Physicians Become Locum Tenens?

Apr 05, 2017

Physicians become locum tenens for all sorts of reasons. There is no universal cause or explanation, but there are a few common ones. The following are the most common reasons doctors become locum tenens.

Additional Income – Doctors like you often choose locum tenens to supplement his/her income. You can pick up a weekend shift, or use vacation time to work locum tenens and make money on top of what you’re already earning in your full-time role. “It is a surefire way to supplement your income,” says Dr. Swanson, long-time hospitalist. “I started doing locums by just picking up a shift here and there with a few other doctors. It was an easy way to make more money.”

This is especially important when you consider private practice physicians who own their own practice. “When a doctor is away from his/her practice, even for a week, the overhead cost continues, but the income doesn’t. That makes a sizable difference in take-home pay.”

Broaden Skill Sets – If you want to learn new procedures not available in your current role, or if you just want to expand your horizon, locum tenens work is a viable consideration. You’ll be exposed to a wide array of treatments, practice settings, and procedures. Your resume is also going to pop. “I was primarily a hospitalist for more than 20 years. The opportunity for me to widen my skill set by learning to do knee injections arose while doing locums,” said Dr. Swanson. “As of today, I’ve performed over 40-thousand knee injections, and now enjoy a supervisory role overlooking other clinicians as they carry out the injections.”

Battling burnout – During a time when over 50% of US physicians are suffering at least one symptom of burnout, becoming a locums tenens offers a refreshing spin on practicing medicine. A temporary job in a new city and state could be just what the doctor ordered. “I came from a very busy hospital that also required nights and weekends. For me, working locums hasn’t been nearly as busy, because I chose to work in rural areas most of the time. It’s a much different experience.”

Creating real work/life balance – Physicians with family are often looking for ways to spend more time with them. Locum tenens work affords doctors an opportunity to create a more accommodating schedule. Locum tenens work grants unrivaled work/life balance in medicine. You can choose the days and hours that you are willing to work. “As a hospitalist, there were times I worked 24-hour shifts and was up most of the time,” said Dr. Swanson. “There were times where I never even got to bed. Now I don’t work night call shifts or weekends. I can actually go on vacation.”

Only pay for the benefits you want – Becoming a locum tenens physician means becoming a 1099 contractor. As such, you’ll have more opportunity to claim work-related expenses on your taxes. While no deductions can be made for expenses attributed to personal, family or living expenses, you can still claim things like travel, meals, housing, work tools, supplies and continuing education.  Be sure to discuss your individual tax situation with a qualified tax professional.

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