It’s been a long road, but you made it. The years of study and concentrated work have paid off. Congratulations! You have successfully reached the last hurdle that allows you to move on to the next chapter of your medical career.
You met all your residency/fellowship program requirements and you are ready to look at what the future holds. But try not to let uncertainty, the decision-making process or the thought of new challenges block you from being open to the possibilities.
As you embark on your next chapter, maybe you just want to take a moment to breath. Or, maybe you are jumping in to do more specialty-specific training in a fellowship right away. If your hectic life and schedule got in the way of developing a wide net of contacts during your residency or fellowship for landing a good job, then locums could be your path. I have learned over time that sometimes job information comes from unexpected sources. Either as a graduating resident or fellow, my recommendation is to give locums a serious look.
The Pros of Locums
At Hayes Locums we never think it is too early for new graduates to consider locum tenens as their next step. Working locum tenens could provide you with what you really want (and need) when you come out of your residency or fellowship program. Think of it as a chance to test-drive your career to help determine if a facility provides the right clinical and cultural fit. If that’s an idea that appeals to you, then you should connect with a locum tenens agency. Temporary assignments allow physicians to work and make some extra money prior to their fellowship, while studying for their boards, or waiting for a permanent position to start, if you’re going that route.
As medicine changes, job descriptions and opportunities also change, advises the American College of Cardiology (ACC). But there is one proviso that all graduates are looking for: A good starting salary. That isn’t surprising, but you should know that the locum tenens landscape is highly competitive. As a new graduate, wages earned through locums can help with medical school debt. Since today’s gig economy supports freelance work with enthusiasm, and since the doctor shortage is already affecting rural areas, we hear opportunities knocking for new graduates. By 2032, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts projected physician shortfalls from 46,900 to 121,900. The projected shortage includes between 1,900 and 12,100 medical specialists, between 14,300 and 23,400 surgical specialists, and between 20,600 and 39,100 other specialists, such as pathologists, neurologists, radiologists, anesthesiologists and psychiatrists, along with providers in emergency medicine.
This nugget is further evidence that locums is a prospect worthy of attention for new graduates: Locum tenens opportunities are more plentiful and more fruitful than ever, reports the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO). First year providers can look to locums as a solid choice for their first job following residency or fellowship training. Locums assignments for new graduates will offer immediate and long-term benefits, including:
- Provide competitive compensation, as full-time or supplemental income
- Up your experience level and credibility on your CV (curriculum vitae)
- Present opportunities to gain knowledge and experience so you can negotiate a better job and salary when the time comes
- Help you realize that you are poised to secure a full-time position at your locums job
- Show what you are capable of to increase your value for future opportunities
“First year providers can look to locums as a solid choice for their first job following residency or fellowship training.”
Prior to the Residency/Fellowship End Game
Locum tenens job advantages include working as much as you want to, or as little as wanted. And depending on your specialty, the opportunity to choose where you can practice.
You are an ideal locums candidate if you are:
- Serious about trying out different practice environments
- Curious about trying out a facility prior to potentially working there permanently
- Seeking opportunities that let you travel and explore new parts of the country
- Looking to make a difference in underserved rural communities
- Hoping to fulfill your career as a patient care provider while your partner/significant other is still in med school
It’s recommended that you start the process now and not wait until you graduate from your residency program or fellowship. That’s because it typically takes about four to five months to go through the application, credentialing and licensing processes. And, June is historically a month that is busy for the State Medical Boards because of a backlog of licenses. There is also pressure on hospital medical staff service departments at that time since physician movement is high during the summer months. Here’s what you need in advance: Licensure and applications for privileges. Also, is your CV current? Be sure that you also have documentation proof of clinical procedures and other critical experiences.
“Locums presents opportunities to gain knowledge and experience so you can negotiate a better job and salary when the time comes.”
Is now the time for a long-term contract? While you may see a long-term contract option upon graduation as hard to resist, have you assessed the situation fully? It is perfectly understandable that a long-term contract after completing residency or fellowship training is exciting for any number of reasons. At the top of the list of the enticements are earnings potential and stability, naturally. But remember that fulfilling your dream to care for patients and have top-dollar promise is something you can find with a locum tenens position, too. Ask a future employer to be open with you before you take a leap of faith, just to ensure that the fit is going to match your expectations.