Learn to scuba dive, taste the best food in Tokyo, explore the world’s most famous glowworm caves… It sounds like a trip of the lifetime, doesn’t it? These are how many physicians adventure while on an international locum tenens assignment.
When you take on an assignment in an international location, you not only get immersed in that area’s culture, but you also benefit from their approach to vacation time — which is often very generous. During that PTO, you can explore the beaches right near where you work and live and fly for cheap to other nearby destinations.
Here’s just how much vacation time our physicians typically receive while on assignment:
After Dr. Mike Spertus finished his post-residency fellowship, he applied for an international locum tenens position and is now about halfway through that assignment in Perth, Australia. He’s thrilled to be there, he says, and loves many things about the job, including: the flexibility, the clinical experiences, the travel opportunities, and the work/life balance.
“You don’t have call-time or overtime,” he explains about his full-time role as a general practitioner. “You're not staying late to catch up on billing or case notes. And you get four weeks vacation right off the bat.” All of that makes it kind of feel a bit like a working vacation, he adds.
Valuable medical experience
One thing that drew Dr. Spertus to this assignment was the clinic’s openness to him doing some integrative medicine — the focus of his fellowship — such as acupuncture. “It took a little bit to get the acupuncture going, but I was able to. And I am really happy that my practice was open to this,” he says.
At the clinic, he has seen newborns, pregnant women, adolescents, adults, and geriatric patients too — all with a wide variety of ailments.
“It’s a big mix,” he says. “The clinical experience has been quite valuable. I see mental health cases and also do pain management too.”
Another thing that drew him to Australia is the high incidence of skin cancer, as skin cancer is one of his medical interests. “Probably 20 percent of my cases are skin cancer,” he explains. “It's a fairly large portion of my practice, which is what I wanted.”
While on assignment, Dr. Spertus has received additional training in skin cancer protocols and mental health treatment. He appreciates how supportive the clinic has been of these educational seminars, as well as the opportunities to visit Melbourne and Sydney.
Practicing medicine in Australia
Australia provides healthcare to all citizens, resulting in some differences from the U.S. system, particularly in billing management. “Healthcare is basically guaranteed, and the system is so much more streamlined because of that,” he explains.
That’s one of the things that Dr. Spertus loves about his assignment in Australia — the streamlined healthcare system.
“Everything at our clinic is pretty much a bulk-billing practice to the government. It makes billing super simple,” he explains.
There is a bit of a hybrid system in Australia, points out Dr. Spertus, with some people getting private insurance on top of the government healthcare. When that happens, practitioners in Australia still don’t have to worry about billing insurance companies, as the patient is responsible for that part, making it easy for them to concentrate on providing quality healthcare instead of doing admin work.
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Exploring Australia and Bali
One of Dr. Spertus’ favorite sightseeing experiences in Australia is the beach. “It’s readily accessible with some of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen!” he says with a smile. “The scenery, the beautiful turquoise water, the soft sand, the beautiful topography in Western Australia with the cliffs and everyone surfing, are stunning. And I love seeing and hearing all of the animals that are so different from the ones in the U.S.”
He adds, “Kangaroos are everywhere, even close to the city and on the beach.”
He also likes seeing Australia’s bird species and other wildlife, like quokkas, a marsupial animal that's native to Rottnest Island off of Perth.
Dr. Spertus routinely visits the local vineyards and has adventured into the outback for camping and exploration too. He went to Bali twice already, for a yoga retreat and for exploration.
“Bali is closer from Perth than most Australian cities — and cheaper to get to,” he points out.
Working locum tenens after residency or post-fellowship
Dr. Spertus recommends that other physicians sign up for an international locum tenens assignment, especially right out of residency or post-fellowship before getting tied down.
“Definitely give it a go,” he encourages. “International locum tenens is oftentimes a once in a lifetime chance. Try to make it work for you, because it's a really great experience. And you get help from your agency for it too.”
Interested in starting your own international locum tenens adventure? Browse our current opportunities by clicking the button below. Or give us a call at 1.800.760.3174. We're always here to answer any questions you might have.Read More
Ready to escape the demanding hours of your long-term physician position and instead gain work/life balance, while earning a good living? Want to travel near or far, while getting paid? Then, chances are, locum tenens can benefit you.
An important consideration is whether to take a domestic assignment or an international one. This doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition, as many physicians work both kinds during their career, points out Global Medical Staffing's Dena Sween, especially as they transition out of or back into the U.S.
Still, to help you get started on your first locum tenens assignment, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of both types.
Dr. Anu Taylor on assignment in the U.S. territory of Guam
Our international assignments deliver a memorable experience living like a local in another culture, while practicing first-world medicine in a safe environment, in locations such as Guam, Canada, the Caribbean, the U.K., China, or the “down under” countries of Australia and New Zealand. These positions usually involve set hours without on-call time, along with generous vacation time, allowing for extensive travel time while you are there. That’s one of the biggest reasons physicians choose international locums.
International assignments provide adventure and exposure to different health systems, which builds your CV and helps you to increase your skill level. Additionally, many physicians, like Dr. Sara Jalali, report that these assignments reinvigorate their passion for medicine, helping relieve burn out.
Another perk is that we’re placing in more areas of the world than ever before. “There are all of these fantastic options just starting to pop up, so basically what we tell people is to get on our list so that when that really cool new thing comes through, you hear about it first,” Sween says.
Challenges of international assignments can include collecting the necessary paperwork and the requirement to take on longer commitments, often one year. Although there are some three month assignments available in Guam and the Caribbean. Going to Guam and other U.S. territories requires that U.S. physicians possess a U.S. passport but no visa. Plus, as with all positions, it requires credentialing and privileging, often taking three months from the time you accept the assignment.
Paperwork for other international placements takes a little longer; the typical minimum assignment length is longer too. For instance, it usually takes three months to complete the medical registration and visa process for New Zealand, and requires a six-month minimum assignment. The paperwork for credentialing, privileging, licensing, and visa processes in Australia and Canada take six to eight months, and typically require longer assignments, usually one-year minimum.
“There’s going to be paperwork anywhere you go, domestic or international,” Sween points out. “They [the hospital administrators] need to know who’s coming in and working in their healthcare system. The fantastic thing is that we have an amazing team who walks you through all of that and holds your hand throughout the process.”
Another possible challenge of international locums might be an expectations mismatch. For instance, housing may be different from the typical U.S. set up.
“We look at what the local doctors live in, and that’s kind of the level we put doctors into,” Sween explains. “For example in New Zealand, you may not have air-conditioning; that’s standard in the area. Having that flexibility in your expectations and listening when our recruiters are setting those expectations is really important.”
She adds that part of the reason many physicians choose an international assignment is to live like a local. “It’s part of the adventure.”
Other possible challenges: Practicing medicine in another country might involve differences. Also, many people feel both excited and nervous about the assignment.
These are valid concerns, Sween points out, but it’s rare that a physician takes an international assignment and feels like it wasn’t worth their time or that their family didn’t bond because of it. The keys are to communicate your expectations with your recruiter, and then go with an open mind.
Dr. Anita Haugabrook takes a selfie with colleagues while on assignment in the U.S.
If you want less adventure or can’t leave the U.S. for several months, choose a domestic assignment instead of an international one, Sween says. Domestic assignments allow you to take on very short assignments. They provide more flexibility, more choice, and more options. You choose your pay, your schedule, and your working conditions.
“You can do weekend work. You can commit to five shifts a month,” Sween explains. “That’s the beauty of domestic work, the flexibility.”
Another benefit is that domestic assignments pay more than international assignments, and often more than a long-term position, especially for hard-to-fill shifts or specialties, like psychiatry.
Some physicians choose domestic assignments in order to spend time near their family/college kid, to tackle their travel bucket lists, or to use their skills to help a vulnerable population. Other motivations include spending more time with family, combating physician burn out, avoiding extensive admin and billing paperwork, and taking charge of their destiny.
Possible challenges can include the paperwork involved in getting licensing in other states, or for some positions, requirements can be very specific (i.e. certain certifications, experience, or training). However, don’t let those possible challenges hold you back. We have all kinds of assignments across specialties all over the U.S. and are committed to helping physicians find what they’re looking for.
Reach out to us today
If you’re interested in learning more about locum tenens, contact us. “Let us know what your expectations are, so we can find you a great fit,” Sween encourages. “And feel free to call us ahead of time, even years before you can go international. We can answer questions along the way, or place you in domestic assignments, or help you start planning in a certain direction to turn those dreams into reality.”
Ready to launch your own locum tenens adventure? Click the button below to browse our current opportunities or give us a call at 1.800.760.3174.
You've thought before about an international assignment, but how do you know if the timing is right? Take our fun, short, eight-question quiz to find out whether you’re ready to head off on your own international locum tenens assignment.Read More
Thinking about exploring another part of the world, while working and gaining valuable career experience? Global Medical Staffing can help make it happen.
We place physicians in first-world countries for six-month to one-year assignments (and shorter assignments in U.S. territories) — and as part of our services, we handle all the logistics of securing the assignment, your visa, and any necessary professional credentials. And, in most of our international assignments, we pay for your airfare, housing and transportation.
The reasons physicians choose a particular part of the world vary, so it pays to learn about the differences in healthcare systems, along with the unique benefits these places offer.
Australia: Good pay and plenty of travel opportunities
Physicians in Australia make good money, similar to what doctors make in the U.S. That’s a big part of the draw for physicians doing locum tenens there — that and the boundless travel potential.
In Australia, the remote areas need physicians (not the urban centers), which means locum tenens physicians on assignment in Australia practice in facilities similar to those found in rural areas in the U.S. (adequate but not super high-tech).
“Typically, physicians decide to take a locum tenens placement in Australia in order to make good money while traveling extensively all around the country and region,” explains Matt Brown, director of Global Medical Staffing’s international division.
Australia provides universal healthcare to citizens, so locum tenens physicians can see high case loads but get paid a pre-negotiated salary that eliminates the hassle of medical billing.
“Our international locum tenens physicians often tell us that they desire a break from private health insurance billing — and they get that in Australia and in most of our international placements,” Brown says.
Three doctors share what it’s like to work locum tenens assignments in Australia.
New Zealand: A slower pace of life in a gorgeous, wild country
Many of New Zealand’s home-trained doctors (1 in 6) go to other countries like Australia for better compensation, which results in a need for physicians throughout all of New Zealand.
“This provides numerous opportunities for visiting physicians in both urban and rural areas,” Brown says.
In fact, any qualified physician who wishes to live like a local in New Zealand for six to 12 months should be able to go, as New Zealand needs physicians in all medical specialties.
Other benefits: great weather, friendly people, and skills that easily transfer. “New Zealand makes it really easy for visiting doctors,” Brown explains.
“The pay is much lower than what a U.S.-practicing doctor makes, so physicians go to New Zealand for the experience,” says Brown. “They go for the lifestyle of being able to walk right out their door into nature to hike and to surf, to travel extensively, and to get back to the roots of practicing real medicine. Every doctor loves their time there.”
Find out how this physician found a new love for medicine while on assignment in New Zealand.
Guam and the U.S. territories: Toehold into Asia
Guam and the Pacific Islands use the U.S. healthcare system, so the quality of care and the way practices operate are identical to U.S. rural areas, making it easy for physicians to adjust.
Because visas and special licenses aren’t required, since Guam is a U.S. territory, doctors who decide to take an assignment can go for a short time while earning the same high wages as they would in the continental U.S.
“Guam is close to everything you would want to see in Asia, making it a perfect way to access all of Asia for travel and exploration. Because of the similarities in pay and assignment duration, going to Guam looks more like what taking a locum tenens assignment within the continental U.S. looks like,” Brown says.
Get one doctor’s take here.
Canada: Good work/life balance, good pay, pretty places
In Canada, healthcare operates as a single-payer government system with some private hospitals and clinics too. Locum tenens physicians earn a similar salary as they would in the U.S. The quality of care and the facilities rank high, but physicians work with large case loads. That said, many locum tenens physicians report that Canadian physicians experience a better work/life balance and lower burnout rates than U.S. physicians. Additionally, assignments can take physicians to especially beautiful places.
We offer two scenarios in Canada:
Imagine jetting to the other side of the world where you’ll immerse yourself in the local culture, travel extensively, and work a flexible schedule. Through our international locum tenens program, many physicians — and their spouses — live like locals in another country.
The idea of taking a break from our incredibly demanding, fast-paced U.S. medical field to see other parts of the world while still earning a living tends to get physicians dreaming. When couples consider how to make it a reality, many logistics come into play, such as whether both need to work or if just one can. For some, the former holds true. Other couples purposefully free up their spouse in order to more fully explore the new area.
Whatever your situation, this Q&A with Andee Nelson, an international placement specialist at Global Medical Staffing, will help clear up basic questions about visas and your spouse’s work privileges.
Can my spouse work too?
Whether or not your spouse can work will depend on many factors, including the location of the assignment, your spouse’s line of work, and your length of stay.
In New Zealand and Australia, where we place many international locum tenens physicians, the rules are that your spouse can work via your work visa if:
We’re spotlighting one of our international locum tenens physicians: Dr. Sean Ryan. He chose locum tenens because he loves experiencing other cultures like a local. This prompted him to take an assignment to New Zealand when his daughter was a toddler.
“I was there for six months and received the same vacation as a regular, full-time employee, which was three weeks off. In addition to all kinds of weekend explorations, we [my wife, daughter and myself] took two big trips, one through the North Island, where we went blackwater rafting on innertubes through glowworm caves. The other was to the South Island, where we were able to take a boat trip to Milford Sound, hike on a glacier, and go wine tasting and whale watching."
While on his New Zealand assignment through Global Medical Staffing Dr. Ryan, a psychiatrist, worked with the Māori Mental Health Team that served New Zealand’s native Polynesian people. The team greets all new providers with a traditional welcoming ceremony.
“It was such a welcome beyond anything I would have expected,” says Dr. Ryan. “Additionally, my colleagues were so inviting. I couldn’t have felt more part of that team while I was there.”
The natural splendor of the remote tropics often left him awestruck. “It was so beautiful. Parua Bay was just outside our house, and we could see wildlife and go on hikes deep into the forest right out the front door.”
After that six-month locum tenens assignment, Dr. Ryan took a second assignment in Tasmania, Australia.
"We loved living in Tasmania. Hobart is a fun, walkable city that's surrounded by beautiful nature. We were close to waterfalls and giant tree fern forests, and we loved seeing wild animals like wallabies and echidnas on our hikes."
In between the two assignments, he and his family spent time exploring the Cook Islands, Fiji and Bali. While in Australia, they visited Sydney, Melbourne, and went scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef.
New Zealand: A Slower Pace of Life
In the northern, more tropical part of New Zealand, the facilities were small and simple, reminding Dr. Ryan of his past experience in the Eastern Caribbean’s Saint Lucia. Sometimes lab work and radiological exams took longer than in the U.S., but Dr. Ryan quickly adjusted to the differences. In fact, for psychiatry in particular, the slower pace perhaps was more beneficial for patients in order to get more time with physicians and longer in-hospital stays when necessary, he says.
“I reminded myself that it doesn’t matter what country you’re in, the goal is the same: to take care of patients. My advice to other international locum tenens doctors is to settle into that idea, and you’ll have a much easier time adjusting.”
City Life in Australia
His Tasmanian experience was in a modern hospital, similar to the U.S. teaching hospital where he did his residency. There, he made a point of introducing himself to people and setting up social outings in order to get to know his colleagues well, which created lifelong friendships.
That’s the second piece of advice he offers doctors who take an international locum tenens assignment: Get out and meet people.
How Locum Tenens Works
Global Medical Staffing took care of all the logistics for Dr. Ryan, from helping secure Dr. Ryan’s medical licensure for working internationally, to arranging the family’s housing, to booking the flights.
“They even helped with a poorly working vacuum when the landlord was giving us the runaround and just let us purchase one and get reimbursed,” Dr. Ryan points out, a big deal to a family with a toddler. His Global Medical Staffing recruiter also helped the family look into licensing requirements for his wife, a speech pathologist, to see if it was feasible for her to work in Australia as well. “Global Medical Staffing made everything so much easier,” he explains. She opted instead to volunteer at a local vocational college, helping refugees and immigrants learn English, and had an incredible experience.
Although in the U.S. locum tenens assignments pay really well, international locums rates are typically lower. But with the hospitals providing their housing and transportation, Dr. Ryan’s family was actually able to save money, even while traveling extensively. “We thought we would need extra money to do this, and it turned out we put money into savings instead, which was a nice surprise,” says Dr. Ryan.
Ready for More Overseas Adventure
Dr. Ryan is already excited to take on another international assignment when his daughter graduates from high school. In the meantime, in addition to his full-time practice he occasionally takes on a weekend locum tenens assignment in places like Santa Cruz, California, a city he loves visiting.
He says to other healthcare professionals: “Don’t hesitate to look into international locum tenens. It's easier than it seems, especially with a locum tenens company like Global Medical Staffing that assists throughout the whole thing. I can’t wait to go do it again.”
Ready for your own international locum tenens adventure? You can view our current opportunities here. Or just pick up the phone and give us a call at 1.800.760.3174. We're always here to discuss your options and answer any questions you might have.
It’s a tempting idea: Ditch the rat-race for six months (or longer), practice overseas where you can work in the morning and surf or hike in the afternoon—or perhaps the other way around.
It’s also quite possible: Thousands of your colleagues are doing it right now.
The plusses of such work extend beyond catching the perfect wave or “throwing another shrimp on the barbie,” as our Australian friends might say. There’s the chance to engage a different culture, work in a new environment, and enjoy a “working sabbatical” from which you can jump off to explore another part of the world.
For those interested in volunteer and humanitarian work, a short-term overseas assignment can provide proximity to service areas and the extra financial resources to make it happen.
But what do you really know about international locum tenens, and how to get in on the action?
Here are some basic details to help you get started:
THE FEW, THE QUALIFIED, THE LOCUMS PHYSICIANS.
We know practice standards differ from country to country, so it’s important to note that, although there are sometimes exceptions, an international locum tenens practitioner generally must be board certified or board eligible to practice in Australia or New Zealand. In those countries, they also want you to have recent, extensive, postgraduate training or experience–three or more years in a comparable health system. Requirements will always vary from position to positon depending on a number of factors including specialty and training.
Our friends Down Under also want to make sure your medical school is listed in either the WHO Directory of Medical Schools or the ECFMG/FAIMER Directory.
To work in Canada or Singapore, you’ll need to be board certified or a fellow of the various specialty colleges, though this doesn’t apply to Family Medicine or Emergency Medicine physicians.
So, clearly, an international locum tenens assignment may not be possible for everyone—some practitioners may not have all the needed qualifications yet. If your background meets the requirements, you might be able to quickly embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Unsure of whether you meet the qualifications? Give one of our international experts a call and they’ll let you know how your training measures up to what our clients are looking for.
THEY NEED YOU, THEY REALLY, REALLY NEED YOU!
If you’re qualified, here’s some good news: You’re probably needed. Just as there’s a growing need for healthcare in the U.S., the world’s needs are growing, too. In rural and underserved areas of Australia and New Zealand, for example, the need for physicians is strong, because there may well not be enough doctors—or those in your specialty—to go around. Some community hospitals struggle to provide basic services due to a variety of factors: new graduates choosing specialization, expanding local populations, and fill-ins for doctors on maternity leave or who have accrued long-term sabbaticals.
According to Global Medical Staffing international placement specialist Sara Cosmano, “Many of our openings are in attractive communities that have simply grown and require additional medical assistance. Many of the communities are coastal cities with populations ranging from twenty thousand to a million people.”
Translation: You won’t be stuck in the middle of nowhere! (Unless you want to be, that is.)
The compensation is nothing to sneeze at. Your airfare, housing, transportation, and malpractice coverage are typically paid for. Pay will vary from country to country but it’s important to understand that overseas locum tenens assignments generally don’t pay as much as positions in the United States. However, international positions offer additional benefits such as the opportunity to see the world, unique cultural experiences, the chance to help in areas of need, and better work/life balance. Wherever you practice, you’ll earn a competitive wage that will allow you to live comfortably and travel.
If you're not a native English speaker, you may be required to take and pass the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam which measures language proficiency. The test, which has been designed to avoid cultural bias, places users in bands from "1" (non-user) to "9" for an expert speaker.
If it’s nice to be somewhere that you’re wanted, an international locum tenens assignment could provide that — and more.
YOU CAN PUT PATIENTS FIRST. TRULY.
Thanks to the healthcare systems in place in many countries such as Australia and New Zealand, it’s possible for a physician to concentrate on patient care. Yes, there are systems and recordkeeping (paper-based or digital) to be involved with, but the emphasis is on providing optimal care.
Here’s what Sara Cosmano has to say: “Doctors are respected members of the community and patients are genuinely thankful for medical care. Both countries still focus heavily on quality patient care over the business and financial aspects of medicine—one of the top reasons many of our physicians choose to extend or repeat their locum experience.”
That can be a refreshing change from the competing demands a physician faces in the U.S.
IT CAN LEAD TO A WHOLE NEW LIFE — OR A NEW LEASE ON YOUR CURRENT ONE!
The writer David Foster Wallace was right when he said, "Routine, repetition, tedium, monotony…these are the true hero's enemies." It’s not difficult to fall into a rut with the practice of medicine in one place and under one system over time.
Many of those who take international locum tenens assignments say the experience sparked new enthusiasm for doing the work they do. After a few months or a year overseas, they return to the U.S. with a renewed vigor, new experiences under their belt, and perhaps new ways of viewing things. They and their families enjoy the experience of living in a different culture, as well as the travel opportunities this affords.
You could call it a “refresh” or a “reboot” when things have perhaps gone a bit stale—and you get paid for it! Best of all? Working overseas assignments gives many physicians the freedom and work/life balance they so badly want, but can’t get, here in the U.S. Generally speaking, you’ll get to spend more time seeing fewer patients, you’ll work less hours and even get have more time off to travel and explore.
But for some, the adventure goes even further. We’ve seen many practitioners take to living and working overseas and want to extend their assignments indefinitely. Our assistance in placing them on an international locum tenens can be a vital first step towards an overseas relocation, and our staff is here to guide job-seekers through every aspect of the process.
Think about it: your skills, training and experience are in demand in right now in some of the most beautiful locations in the world. You can be well compensated for those skills and expertise, and show your family things they’d possibly never see otherwise, certainly not as part of a new and exciting culture.
An international locum tenens assignment can revitalize your practice of medicine, offer new experiences and perhaps lead to an entirely new life and lifestyle.
Global Medical has placed thousands of top-caliber doctors in facilities throughout Australia and New Zealand, the U.S. and its territories, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, the Caribbean and Canada. We actively recruit doctors from the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe; though we also have recruited doctors from such far-flung areas as Iceland.
To get the process started you can click here to request more information or click below to see what’s currently available.
You've gotten the itch to place your feet on new land, you know that much. But where to go? Take our fun, short, seven-question quiz to find out where you should head off to on your next international locum tenens assignment.