Pediatricians looking for practice and schedule flexibility, or wanting to “try out the market” before making a decision, locum tenens — essentially temporary physician employment — may be a great opportunity. Physicians are employed by an agency to work for a short period of time, from a few weeks to several months. Locum tenens physicians have the ability to choose not only the practice setting and where they practice geographically but also how much they practice. Compensation is competitive with permanent employment, and the agency typically picks up the costs for malpractice insurance and licensure.
Locum tenens work is best suited for physicians who are independent-minded, somewhat entrepreneurial, and willing to take the risk that work might not always be steady. In addition, locum tenens physicians generally don’t receive benefits such as health care coverage and retirement plans, which means the physician will need to be skilled in handling personal finances and investments, or be willing to hire a professional.
It is not always possible to choose the ideal practice setting the first time around. About half of new physicians change their job or practice setting within five years of graduation. But physicians who take the time to assess their needs and explore their options carefully before deciding on a setting are more likely to make a good first choice. Locum tenens work provides one mechanism by which to explore these options.