I have been a locum tenens anesthesiologists since 1986 and have completed over 200 assignments since.  At first, I wondered why any one would want to do locum tenens work.  I had the understanding that only physicians with poor skills who were unable to hold a permanent position did this type of work. As time went on, I learned that this was not true.  Most of the locum tenens physicians I have encountered over the years were not only good, but in most cases had well rounded knowledge, excellent anesthesia skills, and had far less anesthesia mishaps than permanent personnel.

I started locum tenens work because of hospital politics, government intervention that changed patient care, and the minimum if any reimbursement for the care given.  I find that in locum tenens vs. permanent work, my time is my own and I can determine vacation time, and devote more time to family and my interests as I see fit. When I worked as a permanent anesthesiologist I came home tired and slept most of the time as call and politics consumed all of my energy.  Now when I'm home, my time is my own with no beeper to call me away.  As for pay, I earn more than most permanent positions and take less call.  I don't have to deal with back stabbing politics, low reimbursements, paying for office administration, or overhead expenses.  Also, I receive my full earnings every Friday and do not have to fight government, HMO's, etc. for reimbursements. 

My experience has been a positive one.  I find a large choice of assignments because I have eighteen (18) or so state licenses.  When I approach the end of an assignment, I post a notice on gaswork.com, and within several hours I may receive as many as 60 offers of assignments.  I review them and choose the one I like best.  I do independent as well as agency assignments. I can work as often as I wish for as long as I wish.  I have more tax advantages thru legal deductions filing as a corporation than as an individual. 

As for the pitfalls, I have found that some employers and peers attempt to blame the locum tenens physician for their shortcomings.  However, this is seldom the case. Sometimes, it is hard to be away from home. Fortunately, my husband and family are very supportive and provide the necessary love and attention. The other pitfalls are the few agencies that will use your time and money for their benefit.  However, there are a lot of excellent agencies out there.  It takes time to find a good one. 

In conclusion, I'd say that locum tenens opportunities are well worth exploring.  It is not for everyone, but for me it's the only way to go.

Sincerely Nancy J. McCullough M.D.

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