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Locum Tenens Doctors Enjoy Work, Despite Time Away From Family, Lower Pay

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A majority of locum tenens physicians find their work satisfying, according to a recent survey. But lower pay and time away from family were cited as the main drawbacks to the job.

A majority of locum tenens physicians find their work satisfying, according to a recent survey. But lower pay and time away from family were cited as the main drawbacks to the job.

Roughly two-thirds of locum tenens doctors said their work is just as satisfying as working in a permanent position, while almost 20% say it’s more satisfying, according to a 2009 survey by Irving, Texas, staffing-services firm Staff Care Inc. The trend is a reversal from a survey taken just four years ago, when 62% of locum tenens doctors said they were more satisfied than they would be in a permanent job.

Still, fewer than one in four locum tenens doctors are looking for a permanent position, about the same percentage as in previous surveys. Half of the doctors surveyed cited freedom, flexibility, and the chance to travel as benefits that come with a locum tenens job. Another 20 percent of those surveyed liked getting away from dealing with insurance companies, payment issues, and malpractice insurance problems.

These positives outweighed the main drawback that pay for locum tenens often doesn’t match what a doctor could earn in a similar, permanent position.

Being away from family and friends was cited by 31% of the doctors as one of the downsides of being a locum tenens doctor. That could explain why almost half of the doctors thought the ideal locum tenens assignment would last for less than a month and that 25% weren’t willing to travel too far from home.

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Two-thirds of the locum tenens doctors have been in practice more than 21 years or more and 86% have been in practice for more than 10 years. And most of the doctors view locum tenens work as anything but temporary, with about planning to stay in locum tenens work for three years or more.

Locum tenens doctors provide coverage for physicians who are away on vacation or pursuing continuing education, temporarily fill in for doctors who have left permanent positions and help test market new services for healthcare facilities. Locum tenens positions most in demand include primary care doctors, anesthesia, behavioral health and radiology, according to the survey.

You can learn more about locum tenens work at the website of the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations.


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