Viewpoint: The allure of an international locum opportunity

International locum tenens may be a practical way to fulfill dreams left unfulfilled.

We quickly settled into domestic life and her service commitment was entirely fulfilled within the continental United States, but our aspirations of international travel never faded. (Day trips to Tijuana don't count.)

For years, we've planned trips of our dreams as armchair explorers. What was once going to be a three-week trip to England and Scotland flying over on the Concorde and sailing back on the QEII is now a plan that includes a 777 and the QMII. This trip, in spite of promises to the kids, still hasn't materialized.

Looking at April's month-end expenses, the impact of this time away from the practice got me thinking. How could we possibly swing the expense to travel to Britain for three weeks with no income, especially with college tuition looming on the horizon? "We can't," was my initial answer to this pondering. Then I thought about the possibility of a stint as an international locum tenens.

Perhaps two needs could be met with one choice. Rather than a dabble-and-dash through another country on a pressure-packed "vacation," what if we someday were able to spend six months or a year immersed in overseas assignment(s)? This choice would mean that revenue would be coming in while overseas rather than putting it on hold, and it would also provide an entirely different, more in-depth experience in another country or countries.

If my physician wife or I were to take on a solo international assignment, technology could help the traveling spouse/parent to stay meaningfully connected and involved at home, and the whole family could come over to visit on breaks and holidays. If we all went, wouldn't that look good on college applications?

Certainly, there could be temptations to tune into BBC every night and turn fat on fish and chips, but I hope I would get out in the evenings and make the most of weekend opportunities to travel. Practicing while in another country would keep the budget from busting and perhaps could provide useful insights into the differences in our healthcare systems. Plus, I think it could be a lot of fun.

If the idea of an international locum tenens assignment piques your interest, you can find out more about the how-tos and what other doctors have experienced on their assignments in article titled "Globetrotting medicine". Also, if your family isn't able to join you, you'll find some tips to help an overseas assignment go more smoothly in article titled "Family matters".

For me, perhaps such an adventure will need to wait until the kids are out of college-but then again, you never know. International locum tenens sounds to me like a most practical way to fulfill dreams long left unfulfilled. One day I hope to be lucky enough to write and tell you how it's going.

The author practices internal medicine in Lexington, Kentucky, and is a member of the Medical Economics Editorial Board. Send your feedback to

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