It would be interesting to survey doctors and nurses to find out why they chose careers in medicine. How many of them would mention altruistic motives? There is no way to know without hard data, but there is a general perception that doctors and nurses do what they do partly out of a desire to help people. If that’s true in your case, locum tenens work is one way to make it easier for you to pursue your altruistic goals.
A good way to illustrate this is with a clinician who moves into full time locum work after residency. We will use a fictional hospitalist named Gupinder to create a more personal illustration. Gupinder is in the final two months of his residency at a major hospital in the Los Angeles area. By the first of the year, he will be working as a locum tenens doctor.
India Is a Long-Term Goal
Gupinder moved with his parents from India when he was just three months old. He has returned to India to visit family only a few times over the last several decades. He knows virtually nothing about the country except two things: it is where his roots are, and its medical system is in desperate need of well-educated, experienced doctors.
Returning to India to practice is Gupinder’s long-term goal. Though he would like to go right away, he knows doing so is not financially viable. He could not earn enough to pay off the mountain of student debt he has incurred and still raise a family in a comfortable environment. Gupinder believes that locum tenens is the ticket.
Pay the Loans First
Gupinder did some research into locum tenens work last year. He discovered that the most competitive staffing agencies make locum contracting rather lucrative. Not only do locums earn more per hour than staff hospitalists, they also do not have to pay for their own housing for the most part. Many don’t even pay their own malpractice insurance.
That means Gupinder can take every penny not spent on basic necessities and apply it to his student loans. In just a few years of locum practice, he can have those loans entirely paid off. That is exactly what he plans to do. Paying off his student loans will immediately eliminate many of the barriers preventing him from going to India.
Gain Much Needed Experience
Another thing Gupinder discovered is that experience working in American hospitals is a valuable commodity for opening doors in India. He will be able to find work in India one way or another, but a full and credible CV will increase the chances that he’ll be able to do exactly what he wants to do down the road.
Gaining experience in the U.S. means learning things that could be of great value in India. It means learning skills and techniques that can be taken to a foreign country where they may have never been tried before. There so much Gupinder can glean from the locum experience and take with him when he goes.
Making American Connections
Finally, Gupinder is fully prepared for the fact that much of his work in India will require solid partnerships with American clinicians and institutions. Spending a few years working as a locum will help him make connections that will serve him well in India. Those connections will also benefit him should he decide to return to the States and resume working as a locum.
There are lots of great reasons to consider locum tenens immediately after residency. Using locum work to enable your more altruistic goals is certainly one of them.