Career Comparison Shopping With Locum Tenens Positions

Today we have a guest post about locum tenens positions submitted to us by Adam Ghosh. This is very valuable information to keep in mind about your future career and how to decide what job situation is right for you.

Adam Ghosh has over twenty years’ experience as a researcher in the medical field. In that time he has worked with allergists and vascular surgeons, and everyone in between. Now he supplements his early retirement by contributing to Weatherby Healthcare.

One of the most valuable experiential byproducts to be gleaned from attending med school and a residency tour (or tours) is determining the professional preferences of an aspiring medical professional. I don’t know how many times I’ve encountered a student (or former student) whose original career path-plan or specialty practice-preference changed based on a class they took or time spent as a resident. Finding out what works for you and what you enjoy is obviously a huge part of the process, but discerning what you don’t like is at least as important. Once the practice particulars have been sorted an equally important and far longer term decision awaits- where do you want to settle and into what sort of practice?

Often, realizations and conclusions about specialization, location and position are settled by factors that never would have occurred to someone before school or residency. One friend of mine was dead set on becoming a rural pediatrician until the studying she did for an obstetrics and gynecology course (which she found fascinating despite having never considered it beforehand) introduced her to OB/GYN politics, history and culture, which she found undeniable. Another friend’s discovery of true crime paperbacks in med school led him to pathology.

Similarly, I’ve had colleagues that swore off their rural practice because of the travel, isolation and commute. I know several that loved working in the ER during residency but found the hospital politics unpalatable once they were officially employed. There are any number of additional examples I can cite but no need to belabor the point: there’s no teacher like experience and before you choose your hospital/clinic/private practice as a GP/podiatrist/neurosurgeon in the urban/rural/suburban north/south/east/west, it’s never a bad idea to test drive it.

A great tool for doing so is taking locum tenens contracts in or near places that appeal in the employment situation you’re considering (maybe more than one of them, if possible)- hospital, big/small; clinic, public/private; practice, urban/rural, etc. Tenure as a locum tenens provides a real-time window to your future somewhere. Often a wider window than is granted by visiting a place is all-important. If you’re dreaming of a job in tropical Hawaii or the beautiful, verdant Pacific Northwest, living and working there for a year is going to be a substantially better litmus test for your patience with year-round heat and very expensive dairy products or six months of rain (all of which, oddly, appeals to me; I’m lactose intolerant).

And that week-long jaunt to New York during which you fell in love with the Big Apple may not accurately reflect your relationship after a year of subway commuting and your $1800-a-month closet-sized studio apartment. (Then again, it might prove a perfect reflection.)

Perhaps your love of skiing brought you to rural Idaho. Better to find out before you settle down that your fervently liberal politics prove a poor fit with the Gem State. (Or that your Fox News bumper sticker wins you no friends in San Francisco.) As briefly mentioned- the same goes for your place of employment. Even if you are a committed hospitalist, the culture, politics, management and care style, focus and atmosphere can obviously vary significantly. Your experience at an urban hospital in Boston is going to contrast considerably with an experience at an urban hospital in Los Angeles, much less a small, rural hospital in Mississippi.

The locum tenens dynamic is, in my opinion, underutilized. Particularly for someone considering more than one location or employer, working as a locum tenens is almost always an effective means of establishing a preference. If you’re recently out of school or otherwise in a position to do so- look into some locum tenens positions. Chances are you won’t regret it.

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