After long hours with low pay and years of education and training, you’ve finished your residency. Hurray! It’s a momentous occasion.
At this point, many doctors take a long-term position, but some opt to go with a locum tenens assignment instead. Locum tenens allows new physicians the chance to explore, travel, gain additional experience, make great money, and find work-life balance — among numerous other benefits.
Here are nine reasons physicians choose to work locum tenens after residency.
1. The experience.
Locum tenens provides freedom, flexibility, and travel opportunities.
“Someone who just completed residency has put in a lot of hard work that was very structured and dictated to them. Now, they can get out there and do what they want to do,” says Adriann Mathis, director of Global Medical Staffing’s domestic division. “Locum tenens provides physicians an incredible opportunity to have work-life balance, the opportunity to get out there while still being in love with the practice of medicine, and the ability to do some traveling while making a great living,”
2. Earn more money.
Domestic locum tenens positions pay competitively with long-term positions, and some pay even more than a typical full-time position, particularly if a client needs to get a shift covered right away or in certain high-demand specialties like psychiatry.
In addition to the potential for a higher salary, locum tenens positions include housing or a housing allowance, along with malpractice insurance coverage, and some even include a transportation allowance.
3. Test run a geographical location or healthcare facility.
Not sure where you want to settle down. You can try out different locations across the U.S. with a locum tenens assignment. We have numerous positions in many locations across the country. You also might be able to find a locum tenens position in a specific healthcare facility in order to get a feel for the team, administrators, and working style ahead of signing a long-term contract.
“Locum tenens provides so many more options to figure out where you ultimately want to land. Or maybe you’ll find that you want a career doing locum tenens and not feel so tied down to one practice or one setting,” Mathis says.
4. Gain exposure to different practice settings, care delivery models, and health systems.
Experiencing how healthcare is delivered in remote parts of the U.S. or other parts of the world can put a fresh spin on medicine. Depending on the assignment, you can see what it’s like to practice in a small hospital, a small private practice, a large hospital, or even a government-funded healthcare system like New Zealand or Australia.
5. Work-life balance.
With locum tenens, you can show up, work your 40 hours, and detach without being responsible for client billings, lots of on-call hours, and vast amounts of paperwork. This is a perfect way to recover from the long hours of medical school and residency, explains Dr. Johnny Shen. Dr. Shen so enjoys the work-life balance that working tenens provides that he’s made it his full-time career, and he’s only one of numerous doctors choosing this route for most or all of their careers.
6. For international assignments: New culture, new country, decent pay — plus, you’ll broaden your knowledge and CV.
International assignments allow you to live like a local somewhere else. You’ll spend enough time in the new place to thoroughly explore it, while meeting a network of locals (who often become friends) that will steer you to the location’s very best places. Additionally, with locum tenens, you’re working in areas of need, so your medical skills truly help people, which also expands your skill set and adds to your CV.
“Physicians take international assignments for different reasons,” says Matt Brown, director of Global Medical Staffing’s international division. “For instance, physicians go to New Zealand for the experience, for the lifestyle, and for the travel opportunities. Physicians go to Guam because it’s close to everything you would want to see in Asia, pays a U.S. wage, offers shorter assignments, and is our U.S. healthcare system that physicians are familiar with. Australia provides typical U.S. physician pay and allows you to travel extensively all around Asia.”
Read more here.
7. A long-term, high-paying practice in another country.
For physicians looking to make a permanent move to another country, locum tenens provides the perfect route. We secure the assignment, the work visa, and pay many of the travel/living expenses for the duration of the initial contract. This sets up a physician to more easily secure a resident visa and begin living in the foreign country permanently.
Dr. Tara Piech pursued locum tenens with the goal of using it as a stepping-stone to move permanently to New Zealand. Dr. Piech, her husband, and son were drawn to New Zealand "for the weather, the nature, the relaxed lifestyle, the sensible political climate, and the universal medical care," she says. She took a locum tenens assignment as soon as she retired from the military and made it permanent from there.
"We also have physicians who complete a typical international contract of nine months to a year and fall in love with the area, the people, and the way of practicing medicine," says Lindsey Schoenberg, Global Medical Staffing placing manager. "Some of them then rearrange their life to make a permanent move possible.
8. Waiting for your life partner to finish school or residency.
If you have a partner still in residency or undergoing some other type of job training, locum tenens can provide you with money and valuable experience — while your partner catches up so you can look for full-time positions together.
For good reason, residencies and teaching hospitals are set up to help ensure that an individual’s inexperience does not harm a patient — and many larger facilities continue to somewhat limit autonomy. If you are looking for more responsibility, with locum tenens, you can choose an assignment that’s a better fit.
Whatever you’re looking for in your career, locum tenens can help you find it.
“I get really excited for this younger group of doctors who are graduating because of the opportunity that locum tenens provides,” Mathis says. “With locum tenens, they have the freedom to go out and explore while making a really great living. When I was younger, I thought that medicine always meant 80-hour workweeks and not much work-life balance. Locum tenens really helps to provide that balance. You can work as much or as little as you like. Additionally, physicians go into medicine because they think of the impact they can have on people’s health and well-being, and with locum tenens, they can truly focus on the patients and not have to worry about running a practice or hospital politics.”
Ready to explore our positions yourself? Click the orange button below to browse our current openings or give us a call at 1.800.760.3174.
Locums for a Small World Blog
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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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.
By now in your medical career you may have read something about the burnout epidemic currently afflicting a lot of physicians. Our guess is you’re probably just as tired of hearing about physician burnout as you are tired of experiencing it yourself. But suffice it to say you’re not unique in your exhaustion. Simply put burnout isn’t inextricably bound to healthcare providers. This type of career stress impacts many professionals among many industries and fields. Just check out this article on LoveToKnow.com identifying other occupations with high burnout rates.
Yes you will see that physicians do top the list. In fact, in 2011 a national study was conducted by the American Medical Association and the Mayo Clinic to “evaluate the prevalence of burnout and physicians’ satisfaction with work-life balance compared to the general U.S. population…” What were the findings? “At the time of that study, approximately 45 percent of U.S. physicians met criteria for burnout,” the study authors wrote. This is “attributed in part due to the demands and stress of patient care, long hours and increasing administrative burdens associated with practicing medicine.”
But let’s not focus on what we already know in the statistics; let’s direct our attention to addressing the causes. Because, rest assured, there’s a different way to look at this. Instead of seeing job burnout solely as a problem, see it as an opportunity to change directions.
You’re experiencing burnout for your own personal reasons, right? Sure, the statistics of physician burnout are there; still you have your unique experiences that lead to your very own type of burnout.
Tell you what let’s do this. Grab a piece of paper and take a minute to write down at least five reasons – that may or may not fall in line with the statistics – on why you’re experiencing stress in your current position. Do any of these fit the bill?
- You're experiencing lack of control in decision-making.
- You don't have an ideal work-life balance.
- You don't have enough face-to-face time with your patients.
- There are too many administrative tasks throughout the day.
- Your own self-care may be coming up short due to all of the above.
Some of these reasons impact professionals in many industries (i.e., lack of control in decision-making, not an ideal work-life balance, self-care may be coming up short) but the rest do fall more firmly in the field of healthcare. What do we do in everyday life when a problem – big or small – comes up? We fix it, don’t we?
Now take that piece of paper, throw it in the trash and grab another piece. Or rather write it in your notes app on your phone. Think about what your ideal physician job looks like and jot down some of the finer points. Is it much the opposite of the list above, stuff like more control in decision-making, more time spent with family and passions outside of work, more time with patients, less administrative tasks? If that’s your list then you probably know that self-care is going to fall out of that.
We’re not here to promise you that an international locum tenens opportunity will take care of all these issues; we’re just saying that to be mindful of your stresses is the first, most important step in addressing physician burnout, or rather, your own burnout.
You may be able to mediate these symptoms by simply bringing them to the foreground within the medical facility you’re working. Don’t do anything drastic. Just focus on lowering your stress levels by opening up communication on what’s bothering you in your current position. Dike Drummond, MD, addresses some of the more particular stresses that physicians face and how to solve them in this article on AAFP.org. It's a great read.
If you still deem it an uphill battle it may be time for a change. Again, regardless of career or industry, we all face a point in time where we must choose to move in a different direction. Consider the benefits of an international locum tenens opportunity when you’re faced with physician burnout. Here are just a few:
- There’s more patient care and less paperwork.
- You get to choose when and where you want to practice medicine.
- You’ll have the ability to see how physicians in different practice settings and different countries deliver care.
- Locum tenens helps you build a strong CV. (Think of the experience abroad as well as the ability to develop a unique skillset in a diverse background.)
- Lastly, you’ll get to explore landscapes and cultures you never thought possible.
Go ahead and read more about the advantages to the locum tenens lifestyle. Or another recommended read is 4 common misconceptions about the locum tenens lifestyle.
Again, we’re not here to tell you that the sole solution to all your problems is locum tenens because it’s not. You really do have to address why you’re feeling physician burnout and if the symptoms can be remedied by a locum tenens assignment overseas then great. But focus on why you’re burnt out in the first place. The point is to identify the cause (or causes) then seek out a solution. As a physician that process should be second nature anyways, just apply it to yourself. While you're at it don’t forget to view current international locum tenens opportunities with the click of a button below.