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.”
- Check out more photos from Spertus’ Instagram takeover.
- See 9 reasons to work locums after residency.
- Learn about the unique benefits of practicing healthcare in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Guam.
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