By Adam Barlow
Locum work can be beneficial for any doctor. However, it is best to be selective when accepting locum assignments. Picking the right locum assignment will give you something great to add to your CV. Yes, taking on an assignment in a tropical location is nice, but how will that help your career? My recommendation is to save the tropical destination for a family vacation.
A good locum assignment will give you more responsibility than your typical day on the job. Hospitals are always trying to improve what they do and how they do it. Being part of their goals and helping them accomplish them will leave you with good recommendations from hospital executives and medical directors as well as give you something to add to your CV.
Look for an assignment where you will be assisting with a transition between employment models, an expanding practice, a launch of a new program, or a consulting project. All of these scenarios typically lead to positive changes within a hospital. Accepting a locum assignment under these types of scenarios is going to give you experience in helping a hospital make improvements. Being involved in these scenarios shows that you are capable of taking on more responsibility and displaying leadership skills.
A transition between employment models is when a hospital is currently using a practice management organization (PMO) or medical group for physician coverage and they want to transition to a different PMO or group. Another scenario of a transition is when a hospital moves from a PMO or group to a model where the doctors are employed by the hospital. Some hospitals may also decide to replace their in-house staff with the doctors from a PMO or group. More often than not, a transition of these types leaves a gap in coverage that needs to be filled by a locum doctor. These types of opportunities are great because when the new staff comes in, you have the opportunity to be a leader.
An expanding practice means that a medical group or a hospital is growing. Many times, this is because they are doing something well, which gives them the need to bring on more permanent staff. There is usually a gap in time between when they find the need and when the new permanent doctor can begin work. The opportunity with a group is to step in on behalf of the group and be the first impression. If you leave a good impression with the hospital, you can fall into a permanent role with the group or the hospital. The opportunity with the hospital is to fill an urgent need and be part of a successful growing practice. As a locum in this situation, you may be working as the hospital is still searching for permanent candidates. This is a good opportunity to prove yourself and be considered for the position as the permanent doctor or to become a recurring locum for unexpected needs like vacation or holiday coverage.
Working on an assignment in which you are contributing to the launch of a new program such as a hospital medicine or surgery program is an excellent opportunity to show your leadership skills. Hospitals and groups use locums to launch a new program while they search and hire permanent doctors to run the program. During this time, you have the opportunity to lead, learn, and become recognized for your contributions that are helping start a new program. Once the program is launched, you walk away with a unique experience that not too many doctors have the opportunity to participate in.
Consulting projects give you the opportunity to step outside your normal role and see a little more of the big picture. You will start to learn more about the business side of practicing medicine that will make you more valuable in the long run.