Doctors Without Borders isn’t the only way for travel doctors to make a difference. Traveling physician jobs are a great option for doctors who want to provide care to patients and communities who need it, without even leaving the country.

In fact, locum tenens actually began as a medical aid effort. In the mid-1800s, doctors and nurses from the more populated Northeast traveled to the under-developed Western United States to provide temporary care for frontier communities. During the Civil War, the tradition of travel nursing began, with nurses from around the country being sent to care for wounded soldiers.

This tradition of travel doctors banding together to provide medical care for communities who need it continued into the 20th century: Doctors Without Borders was founded in the 1960’s, when a group of doctors traveled to Nigeria to provide care for survivors of the civil war. Around the same time, temporary doctors were sent to provide coverage for doctors in rural areas, so those same doctors could come train in universities to train in the newest medical techniques. 

Now, in the 21st century, that tradition of medical aid continues. Locum doctors are filling in the gaps left by staffing shortages, ensuring that every community has access to care. 

Here are some of the ways that you can make a difference as a traveling physician:

  1. Travel doctors ensure that under-resourced communities have access to quality medical care.

In a time where growing physician shortages are leaving many communities without reliable medical care, locum tenens makes a huge impact

Locum doctors can also bring the kind of expertise and training that is sometimes difficult to come by in communities that don’t have the resources to attract the kinds of specialists as big cities do. Locum tenens ensures that people across the country have access to quality care.

“Locums is a great way to feel like you’re doing work that matters. Because these are places that really need a doctor. There’s a need for doctors everywhere, [but in big cities], you have a bunch of choices. But in a lot of other places, patients are so grateful to be taken care of, because they might’ve been on the waitlist for months and months.” 

-Hayes Locums Physician

  1. Travel doctors help rural hospitals stay open when they’re understaffed.

A locum tenens physician can be the difference between whether a patient can get immediate care, or whether they have to travel hundreds of miles to the next closest hospital. In many cases, travel doctors have been the difference between a rural emergency room being able to stay open, or having to shut down because of a lack in staffing. 

In many rural communities, there aren’t enough doctors to ensure that facilities can continue to run when one of them gets sick or retires. Locums allows these facilities to continue providing urgently necessary care to their communities, while they look for a more permanent solution.

“You know, I do a lot of carpentry, and there are certain tools that I really count on. A good doctor is like those tools. Especially in the ER. At these smaller hospitals, they might only have one or two doctors, so when your doctor is on vacation, or they get sick, what do you do? There’s not another doctor down the street that you can just call. When a hospital doesn’t have a doctor in the ER, they end up closing down.”

-Hayes Locums Physician

  1. Travel doctors help provide relief  for full-time hospital staff. 

In the most recent physician compensation report, 86% of physicians surveyed reported feeling overworked. Travel doctors can provide needed relief to medical teams by increasing their staffing levels, and sharing the patient load. With over a third of physicians considering retiring or changing careers, having the support of a locum tenens doctor can make a tangible difference in keeping those providers in the field instead of losing them to burnout.

“The level of appreciation and professional cooperation I’ve felt from my locums work is outstanding. If you go in with an open mind, you get to become part of that community. They take you in. What I’ve found is that the staff very much wants to help and to please the locums doctor, because you’re helping them fill a need.” -Hayes Locums Physician

  1. Travel doctors are able to spend more time with patients, without the burden of administrative work.

Because travel doctors don’t have the same administrative workload as hospital-employed physicians, they’re often able to spend more time making connections with their patients. In some cases, hospitals may even contract with the same physicians for recurring assignments, enabling them to create long-term relationships with their patients.

With less time spent attending meetings, sitting on committees, and attending to paperwork, traveling physicians often find that they’re able to focus on the parts of medicine that they love most: connecting with and caring for patients.

“In locums, it’s less busy, even though there’s a bigger need, so I get to spend more time talking to patients. It makes you feel a part of the community. Even though I don’t live there, by my first two weeks in my locums assignment, I already started to feel like I was part of the community. I wasn’t expecting that. I saw it as a job–– I thought I would just do my work and then go home. And then I found myself going back home thinking, this is my community. I have to make sure I can be the best doctor for them as I can be, and care for these people.” 

-Hayes Locums Physician

Want to know more about how to become a travel doctor? Check out our Q&A guide, or search our open travel physician jobs.