‘Locum doctors’ (also known as Locum Tenens doctors) are usually ‘freelance’ doctors who experience the world of medicine in a very different way compared with full-time doctors. They trade in the routine of employment for the flexibility of substituting for others who are off because of illness, maternity leave or holiday.
Are you thinking about taking your career in the direction of locum? Here are some pros and cons to consider before making your decision.
Pros of Being a Locum Doctor
This is often the biggest draw for locum doctors. The flexibility of temp-ing allows you to work as little or as much as you want. You can easily work your earning hours around other important commitments in your life, such as kids and lifestyle.
Another big draw to the locum life is the cash factor. You can temp at various gigs on top of your regular job if you want to earn a little extra money.
Working as a locum in itself could potentially be more lucrative than an employed position since you could charge more. Most hospitals and medical facilities are willing to pay more to secure the qualified help they need at rather inconvenient times and perhaps even at the last-minute.
Network and explore.
As a temporary visitor to a medical facility, you’ll have the chance to try practicing in a variety of environments and find out which role appeals to you before committing to a full-time position. You’ll also have the chance to make some connections and meet new friends who can help open the door for more working opportunities in the future.
Freedom from running a business.
Working as a locum allows you to do what you really love (treat patients) without the time-consuming stress of managing a practice and filing paperwork and dealing with staff issues. You really do get to just do your job and then go home.
Almost constantly in-demand.
Just about every medical facility has to call upon a fill-in doctor at some point. You’re almost guaranteed to find a gig anywhere you look.
You can claim some tax benefits for the expenses associated with your locum work, potentially including travel expenses.
Cons of Being a Locum Doctor
The travel part isn’t fun if it means being on the road (or stuck in airports) for hours at a time. And time spent traveling often means time spent away from your family.
Lack of stability.
There could be stretches of time where you don’t find many opportunities and other times when you feel you are overbooked. If you like routine, then you may find it challenging to work irregular hours and at different places every week.
Unfamiliar work settings and procedures.
You might experience some frustration when you encounter unfamiliar equipment and procedures at every new facility you temp at. Many locum doctors also hate not knowing the history of the patients they’ve never treated before.
Negative financial impact.
The unpredictable cash flow of working as a locum doctor could leave you with a degree of financial uncertainty. This instability can also make it harder for you to qualify for the loans you may need to buy a home or start up a practice of your own, down the track.
Full-time versus locum: which do you think is best suited to your lifestyle and financial needs?
Talk to an experienced medical accounting and financial planning team, to find out which option suits your needs best.
With both options, you’ll need an expert wealth team by your side.
Contact Nitschke Nancarrow, specialists in accounting, financial planning, loans and finance, investment and business for medical professionals. We operate in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and throughout Australia. Managing partner Kym Nitschke is available for a free initial discussion about your situation. Call us on (08) 8379 9950 or send me an email.
– Kym Nitschke
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