[Editor's Note: Every year as part of our scholarship competition, we solicit sponsors. The most generous donors are the Platinum Sponsors and contributed at least $3,500 to the scholarship competition (100% of which goes to the winners). As part of their sponsorship package, each of these donors gets a sponsored post, the only sponsored posts that ever appear on the site. This post is by Locumstory.com, a local company and long-time sponsor of both this site and a number of live speaking events I have done. Congratulations to the 2017 Scholarship winners and thank you to LocumStory.com for sponsoring the scholarship. This post is a Q&A about locum tenens with a number of docs who have enjoyed their experience doing locums.]

Why Did you First Start Doing Locums?

“Way back I initially started doing locum tenens because I wanted the freedom to work when I wanted to work and not work when I didn’t want to work. I did most of my initial locums work in a very metropolitan area. I then decided that instead of using it as a stopgap I wanted to use it as a career. I have gone back and taken a couple of perm jobs which didn’t really fit me very well, and I have now come to the decision that locums is where I want to be.”

Dr. Beverly Ricker, pediatrician

What is the Best Part of Doing Locums?

“Locum tenens really fits in with the ebb and flow of life; there are times in which you are uber available and you can work hard, and there are times where you just don’t want to work. You want to do other things. I think that the misconception is that you can’t make locums into a full-time lifestyle. I like to work hard when I’m available to work. When I am not available to work I want to be free. If you are good at finding a schedule that works for you, you can actually do extremely well as a full-time locums doctor.”

Dr. Mandaar Gokhale, emergency medicine

What is the Worst Part of Doing Locums?

The start-up was difficult at first just because there was so much credentialing paperwork for that very first time. I had a lot of help going through that. That made it easier but since I hadn’t really done any of this before and it had been years since I had done any credentialing because I had been with my old job for so long it did seem a little daunting at first. But after that first time, everything has been pretty easy. Once I got my whole file set up then every time I’ve applied for a new state license or a new hospital credentialing packet it’s been much simpler.”

– Dr. Madeline Geraghty, neurologist

What Was Your Biggest Surprise?

“I think one of the nicest surprises for me about working locums was the reminder that there is more than one way to do things. When you stay at one place for a long time you get used to doing things one way until it becomes a habit and you don’t realize that you’ve been stuck in a rut. I didn’t know that this was going to be one of the nicest benefits of locums for me; just the reminder when I went to new places that there were other ways of doing things, people had different practices, and that kind of shook me out of my rut. I didn’t even know I was in that rut. It shook me out of it and gave me some new perspectives.”

– Dr. Madeline Geraghty, neurologist

Do You Ever Go Back to an Assignment?

“Repeat assignments allow a familiarity with the facility and staff and allow planning of elective procedures. It also allows tailoring a practice focused around your area of interest. Other medical providers, if they know you are returning, may also be able to plan patient care, surgery, etc., after consultation, for when you return.”

– Dr. Laura Bruse, orthopedic surgery

 How Do You Explain Locum Tenens to Family and Friends?

 “My girlfriend’s mother keeps asking why I don’t have a job. They think that I’ve graduated residency and I don’t have a permanent job and they’re wondering whether it’s because I’m struggling to find something. I’m telling them no, it’s the exact opposite. I get to choose when I work. I get to find my jobs and I get to have a week off. I think that’s a misconception about locums, and they don’t really understand and can’t wrap their heads around the flexibility that I have.”

– Dr. Johnny Shen, family medicine

 How Does Locum Tenens Help Your Work/Life Balance?

“Most jobs you can’t just say, ‘I’m going to take these two months off and then I’ll come back after those two months.’ It didn’t work that way before locums. I can now basically schedule in advance, so that if I’m going to be moving, traveling, or vacationing for a month or two this year, I would tell myself, ‘I’ve got to work harder these next couple of weeks.’ It really, really works out. I have time to spend time with my family, I have time with my girlfriend, and I have time with my hobbies outside of work.”

 – Dr. Johnny Shen, family medicine

How Does Locums Work Financially?

“Financially locums works for me because in the field of emergency medicine you can work long shifts. If you have a small hospital that allows you to work anywhere from 24-, 48-, to 72- hour shifts, then you can work straight. You can make quite a bit of money if you’re doing a 96-hour shift, which only takes four days of your life. I think the misconception is that if you work that way that you will not have all the benefits that you need from a full-time stable job.”

– Dr. Mandaar Gokhale, emergency medicine

 How Do You Handle Paying Taxes as an Independent Contractor?

“As an independent contractor I have to facilitate all of my own benefits and all of my own tax reporting, and I have done that by finding a CPA who only takes care of doctors and she does all fifty states worth of taxes. She does my estimated taxes for all the different states I work in. I live in Minnesota, which is a fairly high tax state, so if I work in a state that has no state income tax I have to pay Minnesota income tax on that. If I work in a state that has a lower rate than Minnesota I can pay that lower rate and she works that all out. If I work in a state that has the higher rate then I pay the Minnesota rate. I also have a financial person who does my 401(k) and my SEP, and she’ll call me up and says, ‘Can I do this, can I do this, can I do this?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, sure.’ You have to have people you can trust to do that.”

 – Dr. Beverly Ricker, pediatrician

What Advice Do You Have for Physicians Considering Working Locum Tenens?

 If I was talking to a physician thinking about going into locum tenens, I would tell them to give it a try. Take a weekend or a week assignment. What’s the worst that could happen? You went and did a weekend or week assignment. If you didn’t like, you didn’t like it. So what? But if you do like it, it’s going to open up the world to you”.

– Thomas O’Mara, pulmonologist