Locums for a Small World Blog

Wondering if you’re ready for an international locum tenens assignment? Ask yourself these 3 foolproof questions.

Posted by Everett Fitch

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What inspires you most in this life? Ask that question to any number of people across many professions and you’ll probably get a different answer each time. Pose that same inquiry to a room full of doctors and we imagine that some aspect of their answers will include the words “helping others.”

Go ahead. Take a minute to answer that question for yourself. In fact, to go about it a slightly different way: what inspired you to become a doctor? Don’t limit it to just one reason, either. To gain medical knowledge and a comprehensive, problem-solving skillset all in an effort to heal others and be of service to society is a noble – albeit arduous – pursuit. But that’s only one component of your answer, right?

We know your desires go deeper because all of our reasons for choosing our unique career paths in life go deeper. Perhaps for you it is the altruism, or your insatiable interest in science and medicine, or that it’s a well-respected field, or you come from a family of doctors, or that it’s a stable career path with great earning potential. Heck, it could very well be all of the above or an entirely different answer altogether.

But at the end of a demanding day in an industry where burnout rates are on the rise and patient care never stops sometimes you have to remind yourself of your reasons in order to stay afloat. Other days you need a little more motivation outside of mentally cataloguing why you started in the first place.

A change in scenery is just what, well, you ordered. And we mean that as conceptual as possible. Something as seemingly small as going for a daily walk or something much bigger like taking that huge vacation you’ve been wanting to for years. Or something even more crucial like changing career paths, finally trying out locum tenens for want of the perks you’re afforded. All three of those “changes in scenery” can be accomplished all at once. In other words you could go for a daily walk in an idyllic island country by taking an international locum tenens assignment.

In an effort to see whether or not you’re at a point in your life where taking a medical job overseas makes sense we’ve come up with these three foolproof questions that will help clear your mind. They’re not scientific by any means; they’re simply honest questions that we’ve compiled from all our years of sending doctors abroad.

First and foremost, do you feel burnt out? (Y/N)

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We suspect that you’ve heard at least some form of burnout talk – whether colloquially or as a real condition at some point in you’re medical career. Maybe you’ve already experienced some symptoms yourself. Keep in mind that it’s not a phenomenon that solely affects the medical field, either. Many professionals have been impacted by burnout.

Christina Maslach, a Stanford social psychologist, developed a cohesive assessment tool many years ago concerning professional burnout. It’s called Maslach Burnout Inventory and it addresses three general scales:

  • Emotional exhaustion: Measures feelings of being emotionally overextended and exhausted by one’s work;
  • Depersonalization: Measures an unfeeling and impersonal response toward recipients of one’s service, care treatment, or instruction;
  • Personal accomplishment: Measures feelings of competence and successful achievement in one’s work.

If you feel emotionally overextended, dispassionate about your work, or have a low sense of personal accomplishment then you may be feeling symptoms of burnout. These are real issues that should be taken seriously. And there are solutions out there outside of an international locum tenens assignment: take time to seek out professional help (yes even doctors need someone to talk to), get restful sleep, exercise frequently, etc. (You can find out more about solutions here.) If you’ve tried everything you can think of then maybe a change of scenery is what you need next.

Have you recently gained more free time in your personal life? (Y/N)

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There’s no doubt about it; the road to becoming a physician is physically, emotionally and financially demanding to say the least. And that’s not counting the balancing act you have to perform with your personal life along the way.

But let’s say life is slowing down a bit. Maybe you’re still living the bachelor life right out of residency and you want to experience an adventure in New Zealand before you take on a full-time pursuit in the States. Or maybe you’re nearing retirement and considering a sabbatical of sorts in Australia. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re mid-career and your kids want a new experience, too. (The public school systems down under are top-notch and they do accept foreign students often.)

Do you want more freedom in your schedule and control over your work life? (Y/N)

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Who is really going to say no to that? Locum tenens gives physicians of all specialties the ability to go where they're needed. And there are a lot of needs around the world. There are limitations at times (e.g., if a position closes or if a need doesn't currently exist in a specific location) but for the most part you get control over where you want to practice and when. On top of that you get more freedom to treat patients. That means you spend less time handling paperwork and processes typically associated with a non-locum-tenens pursuit.

If you answered yes to any of these questions then a medical adventure overseas may be just the journey for you. But if you're still feeling indecisive then we’d like to throw these last two queries your way:

Do you want to see how doctors in different countries deliver care, in other words, would you like to diversify your medical knowledge? (Y/N)

Do you enjoy travel and experiencing other cultures? (Y/N)


It’s possible that all of this has left you with even more ambivalence. Never fear. Our physician placement specialists are here to help. Pick up the phone and give us a call. Or if you're ready to start looking now then click the orange button below to see what opportunities are available.

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Topics: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, travel, burnout, physician burnout, international locum tenens opportunity, Maslach Burnout Inventory, benefits of locum tenens

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