The Benefits of Locum Tenens For Saving or Paying Down Debt

I’ve decided to become more serious about my debt payoff and increase the amount of money I’m saving. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to pick up extra shifts. My company pays well, but the highest pay per hour in my area comes in the form of using Locum Tenens contracts. In order to accelerate my debt payoff and savings rate, I’ve decided to sign up for these jobs during my time off.

 

What is Locum Tenens?

The phrase translates roughly to placeholder. Physician groups who need extra help have the option to use head hunters at companies that specialize in this type of placement. Reasons can vary widely for why a group or hospital would need to use this type of service. Not long ago entering into a Locum Tenens contract had a reputation of attracting less desirable candidates to less desirable locations of employment. However, in the past five or ten years the stigma has seemed to fade and some physicians choose to work solely as a Locum Tenens doctor.

The benefits of using Locum Tenens

There is no way of ignoring that the money for Locum Tenens tends to be better per hour than non-partner employment with a group or hospital. Even though as a Locum Tenens doctor you will be an independent contractor, the pay will most likely be higher than that of any other contracts in the same area that are not a partner with a group. I say this because being a partner with profit-sharing can significantly degrade any benefit of working Locum Tenens jobs.

Locum Tenens jobs pay much better than when I used to haul hay on my dads farm as seen above!

There are other benefits of being a Locum Tenens doctor besides increased pay

  • Ability to travel which is paid for by the contracting group
  • Test out a location where you are considering moving
  • A feeling of independence. You are your own business, accepting contracts as a rate you define, at times you define, in locations that you define.
  • Meet a variety of people and see how different areas practice medicine
  • The agency used will take care of all the credentialing work and usually pay for state licensing
  • Insurance plus tail is provided

 

Using Locum Tenens as a side hustle

I’m happy to be an employee with my group. The benefits are great, as are the people and location. My main job provides health insurance and a generous 401K plan. This means that any income that I make as a Locums doctor will be all extra cash I can put towards my student loans and savings for a down payment for a house (minus taxes). Seems like a win-win. However, check your employment agreement and non compete clause in your contract. If your contract says you can not do this type of work, then don’t even try to go behind their back to do it anyway.

 

Avoiding burnout, the downside

The risk with taking on extra work, is reaching burnout quicker than most other physicians. Hospitalist groups all over the country noticed high burn out in their physicians. Many of the groups tried to combat this by creating a 7 day work week while then having 7 days off. It’s not perfect, but burnout did decrease.

Taking additional shifts increases the risk that I will burn out quicker than my colleagues who are not doing so. In an effort to avoid burn out, I have decided to commit to a minimal amount of shifts. The company that I’m contracting with was happy to have me work only 5 days a month on one of my weeks off. I’m glad that I was able to pick my terms.

 

Locum Tenens seems to becoming more popular. I know Physician on Fire wrote about his experience with Locum Tenens and his thoughts. I hope to have a positive experience and make a little money while doing so. I’ll be sure to update the blog after I do about 30 shifts to see how things are going.

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