Locum Tenens Combats Burnout

Physicians are notorious for not having a work-life balance and often turn to strategies to help alleviate the stresses that come from an imbalance. Some physicians turn to locum tenens resources to combat burnout. 

You are working hard to get through training (residency and/or fellowship), that extends through starting your career as a new attending physician. As a high achiever, you have a lot on your plate. You are passionate about your work. It’s a career that starts (and continues) with long hours and heavy workloads, so it’s not surprising that you never take the time to examine what you really want to do in life.

Locum tenens can be the answer to many questions surrounding the work-life balance for physicians. In today’s blog, we examine how Locum tenens resources combat burnout, so you can achieve the type of work-life balance that leads to exploring your passions while earning an income on your own terms!

When I work with a new client we take some time to focus on life planning. The majority of people don’t stop to consider what they really want. I think that is especially true for physicians. You are always reaching for the next new goal. The challenge takes up all your focus.

It turns out that you are working hard to meet your career goals and then fighting burnout. 

What you dream of doing with this one and only life gets lost in the shuffle of responsibilities. 

There comes a time when you feel like your learning and career progress has leveled out. When you finally come up for air, it may be time to examine your next step or save yourself the myriad of feelings that come from burnout.

Let’s take some time to examine how locum tenens resources combat burnout!

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Perhaps you got through training, and you started your career, but feel like you made the wrong decision. 

You feel stuck. 

You especially feel stuck if you’ve become enmeshed in lifestyle creep and feel overextended. Perhaps there is additional pressure from your work in a group practice. They demand a lot of your time–on their terms. That means you are working a crazy amount of hours and it’s starting to take a professional and personal toll. 

Many group practices aren’t flexible and don’t address the needs of an overworked physician

There are other medical career options, such as becoming an academic physician. However, research has shown that this too has a high possibility for burnout. There seems to be as much pressure in this setting as there is in a clinical setting, though for different reasons. 

When you realize that all the traditional medical careers might require the same super-commitment that you were giving before, you’ll feel the familiar creep of burnout symptoms. 

That’s a feeling of running on a treadmill that is going too fast. It’s a disheartening feeling of not being able to keep up. 

It manifests in physical and mental symptoms that make it even harder to recover from burnout.

Locum Tenens Resources Combats Burnout!

There is a way you can continue your dedication and passion for medicine.

That way is to work a locum tenens position, which is where you as a physician are basically working a temp job for physicians (emphasizing your specialty). You can work a week, month, half the year or an entire year. The entire expectation is that this is a finite commitment.

What does that mean for you?

You can work in the field that you spend so much time and dedication training. However, you also have the freedom to recover from burnout, take time off for your family and to explore creative side hustles.

There are doctors who work a portion of the year and spend the rest of the year traveling. 

Locum tenens resources combat burnout in a flexible way!

It must be stated that not everyone you talk to will understand your choice. You’ll be surprised to find that your mentors, coworkers, and family probably won’t give you the support that you might expect. 

While the topic of work-life balance has increased over the years becoming more mainstream, you may need to direct naysayers to some research (work-life balance or burnout) if you want them to understand where you are coming from. 

It’s important for you, as a physician to understand that you have options. You don’t have to remain stuck in a situation that is making you miserable. That will only affect your physician and mental health. It will erode your personal relationships. 

Sometimes the road less traveled is the perfect path to take!

Locum Tenens Resources Combat Burnout With Specialized Compensation!

Is the compensation the same as what you previously made?

As a physician working as a locum tenens you will be paid an hourly wage. That can be extremely flexible and you can earn as much as you want. 

You want more money–you can put in more hours! 

The Positive Spin on Physician BurnoutAs I stated before there are physicians who work a certain amount of time (to cover their needs) and then take a block of time off. They may practice being frugal in order to stretch their money while working on their passion projects.

Working a reasonable amount ensures that you have a salary and a decent retirement contribution (which may be a self-employed 401k). 

It is even possible to make more money as a locums position than you did in a full-time position via the hourly structure!

I’ve always viewed locums as a great possibility in the “financial independence” portion of FIRE. If you are interested in early retirement, locums can be used to bring in income without living off your nest egg. 

The great news is that Locum tenens resources combat burnout but it doesn’t necessarily mean a cut in pay!

Working for Yourself Vs. Working for the Man

There is a huge difference between working extra hours for yourself, so you don’t have to work 40 hours under the “man”. It turns out that putting in an extra 20 or more hours feels very different if you are doing it as an entrepreneur. 

When Taylor, my wife took a locums position, she worked one week on and took three weeks off. It worked really well for our family. If she had been in town and worked one extra week, she would probably have made the same as she would have made working full time. The fact that she negotiated her hourly rate directly with the hospital (instead of a recruiter) means there was no middle man to take a cut.

When our life circumstances and priorities changed, my wife was able to make adjustments to her work schedule. It became tough when the children began to notice that she was gone, so she decided to leave that job.

And speaking of recruiters, there are some bad recruiters who want to send your information out to every hospital. However, there are some really good recruiters who know the market and are worth your while (80% of physicians use an agency). 

The last choice is to work directly with the hospital as my wife did.

For example, you can keep your ear out for a doctor in your community who is on maternity leave (or some other sabbatical). Just keep in mind to check that you don’t have a non-compete. You don’t want to get yourself in trouble!

It must be said that money is not a primary motivator for most people who work in a locums position. However, there are other people who are the polar opposite. One person wants to work for three months, tops. Another person will choose to work 365 days a year, on non-stop assignments. 

The choice to work locum tenens is usually about versatility and freedom. There are far more opportunities than there are physicians, so right now it’s in the seeking physician’s favor (until words get out these great opportunities)!

Take a week of vacation and sample a locums gig! Start your investigation with the National Association of Locum Tenens Organization. 


I’ve talked to hundreds of physicians and they ask about malpractice (and potential litigations). How does a physician figure their tail coverage?

This is such a complex subject and every situation is unique. Here are some potential scenarios:

You have a job and do a locums position on the side. Your current malpractice insurance doesn’t cover your locums.

You need separate malpractice for the locum tenens. 

However, if you are working with a major agency (Comp Health or Staff Care), they’ll provide malpractice insurance during your assignment as required by your state.

Now, if you are sued several years after you leave, the tail insurance will cover you. Keep in mind major agencies will add a tail. 

Just be sure to ask the agent (or hospital) about malpractice and tail insurance. 

Locum Tenens Resources Combats Burnout at Any Stage

The question is does the value of locum tenens resources change depending on where you’re at in your career? 

It does!

Let’s look at three categories:

  • Post-residency
  • Mid-career
  • Pre-retirement

Early In The Game

Locums for post-residency can be about exploration. It’s time to branch out and see what you want to do. That might be trying out different geographical regions or position types (hospitalist, clinic). I’ve said it before but new attending physicians usually change the first jobs they take.

I’ve coached clients who were at different stages in their careers. You have one partner who is searching for a job, while the other is finishing up their education. The partner can compare the compensation of locums work and a full-time job with a very long commute. It might be they take a permanent job for only a year, which can cause problems. There is a lot of waste involved when you take a long-term job but leave early. For instance, the time and money invested in the hiring process on your part and theirs.

Mid-life Changes

Mid-life is a different game. Most people are mired in the financial commitment of raising a family. Plus, you are usually mid-career and ready to make some changes. It’s time to incorporate your other dreams. Locum Tenens combats burnout at this stage and can be used as protection (when you ventures don’t pan out) or the bridge to new successful things.

Just as locums can be used to explore alternatives post-residency, it can be used for the same purpose in mid-career. 

Physician Wealth ServicesLocums Tenens resources combat burnout, but it can also be used as a safety net in other ways. You’ll have a regular income during exploratory phases and it protects your medical career. 

Many physicians think they’ll take a long sabbatical. They want to take a few years off to fulfill a life-long dream. Something that can’t be chipped away at while working a Locum Tenens gig. They believe they’ll take the time off, and come back to renew their license. 

The truth is that depending on the circumstances that may not be possible. 

You need to practice clinical medicine consistently–that includes locums. If you stop for more than two years you can’t get malpractice insurance. In order to verify your work history, you’ll need recommendations from peers who have observed your clinical work in the last two years.

If you really want to take a huge block of time off, the best thing to do is to pop in and practice locums for a couple of weeks.

Re-entering the medical field as a physician is wastes your time and is expensive–plus there are no guarantees that you can go back into practice. 

Is Locums a Good Choice for the Pre-Retirement Crowd?

At the age of 65+, you’re the physician who has devoted much of your life to your career and you love it. You always have, and you want to keep your finger on the pulse of medicine. However, you would also like to travel more or spend time with your grandchildren. 

It might not be possible to tailor in your current work environment to fit your changing needs. That is where locum tenens resources combat burnout and allow you to free up your time and still do the work you love. 

Locum tenens can be a good alternative for a physician for many reasons. It feels better to be self-employed and take control of your time. 

It can definitely be psychologically freeing! 

Since locum tenens resources combat burnout are you thinking about making the change from a traditional position? 

How do you see yourself using locum tenens for work-life balance? Find the Physician Finance FB Community to share!