Posted on
April 4, 2023

How to Deal with Burnout and Take Care of Yourself as a Locum Worker in Primary Care Specialties

Recently, many Physicians have turned to locum tenens work to deal with burnout, as flexibility moderately eases burnout symptoms. However, this does not mean that locum tenens providers are exempt from dealing with burnout themselves. Today, we will share some tips for mitigating it when you are working as a locum tenens Physician. When you move from full-time work to a locum tenens position, your risk for burnout goes down, due to the many perks of locum tenens positions that we will discuss in-depth below.

What is burnout?

According to the World Health Organization, burnout is "a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." Typically, it results in the individual feeling drained, apathetic, exhausted (physically and mentally), and unable to engage with or perform in the workplace successfully.

Nearly half of American healthcare workers have reported dealing with burnout during the pandemic, with a further 38% reporting symptoms of either anxiety or depression. Many factors contribute to these feelings, but some of the most common included a fear of being exposed to COVID-19, stress, and work overload.

Locum Tenens Burnout Solution: Ease burnout with a job shift to a locum tenens role

Moving from a full-time role to a locum tenens position can help ease burnout since you have more control over your schedule. This is a key step on the path toward easing burnout. However, there are other benefits as well.

Benefits of locum tenens work

  • Less administrative work makes it easier to focus on doing what you love most - treating patients.
  • Flexibility gives you the option to create a schedule that works for your needs.
  • Higher-paying locum positions are available throughout the United States, giving you a chance to boost your take-home salary.
  • Professional development and career fulfillment are easier when you control which contracts you take.

Caring for yourself as a locum tenens worker

While locum work offers many benefits and an opportunity for greater work-life balance, some unique stressors can easily contribute to increased stress, anxiety, and eventual burnout.

Locum tenens work is flexible, allowing Physicians to exercise greater control in choosing their next assignment, setting their pace, and determining their schedule. While a temporary lack of family support can be stressful, locum tenens Physicians can take lots of steps to prevent or mitigate burnout symptoms.

Pushing through stress, anxiety, and depression will only lead to more serious adverse burnout reactions. When these feelings arise, it is important to deal with them head-on rather than trying to work through them.

As a locum tenens Primary Care Physician, you may go through seasons of heightened stress. Here are some ways that you can care for yourself while on a locum tenens assignment.

1. Create new support structures

Whenever you take on a new locum assignment, you need to learn the specifics of an unfamiliar job. Initially, you will start with work-related things like how the department or office is run and how paperwork is filed. However, after you have worked out the basics, you will need to build a support structure to keep you feeling calm, collected, and confident in your latest assignment.

We all need these simple supports to stay mentally and physically healthy. This can be anything from a secure and welcoming home to live in, a new place to exercise or do yoga, and new friends to connect with after work. Sometimes it's as simple as finding a coffee shop or restaurant you love.

2. Manage self-care

Creating new self-care habits is vitally important whenever you take on a new locum assignment. Depending on your preferences, this could be anything from running and exercise, to conversations with friends, even from a distance. Managing self-care can make the difference between coping with stress and challenges in a healthy way to feeling the exhaustion, apathy, and strain of burnout.

3. Stay in touch with family

Over the last two years, we have seen time and again how technology can help us create meaningful connections from afar. Even if they are no't geographically close, you can remain in touch with family and friends during your locum assignment. Making time to chat virtually, exchange packages and letters, and even send direct messages to wish each other well can make all the difference between feeling isolated and empowered.

4. Take care of your physical health

In the demanding profession of Primary Care Physicians, looking after your physical health is especially important. It is well known that doctors can be some of the worst patients, ignoring their own health needs to work long hours supporting others. Make sure you get as much rest as possible, eat a balanced diet, and engage in regular exercise when you can. Physical health helps you feel less run down, more energetic, and better able to support your own mental health without getting burnt out. Protect your passion for medicine by protecting yourself.

Find your perfect locum role today!

As a locum tenens worker, your time is flexible, allowing you to address stressors and potential burnout. Remember to take time to "fill your cup,” keep in touch with loved ones and find new social support structures.

Reach out to Caliber today to get help with your next role, licensing requirements, or anything else that may impact your locum career.


Which medical specialty has the highest burnout rate?

Emergency medicine physicians report the highest burnout rate of all medical specialties and roles. Over half of emergency medicine doctors, 60% in total, struggle with the negative consequences of professional burnout. Critical care physicians follow closely behind as the second most burnt-out medical professionals, with 56% of professionals reporting that their work contributes to burnout symptoms.

What were the top 5 potential causes of physician burnout?

  1. The number one cause of burnout was widely reported to be excessive administrative tasks. Medical professionals of all types were overwhelmed with the sheer amount of paperwork and administrative hurdles they had to manage on a day-to-day basis. Many reported they would rather focus on patient care than handle administrative tasks.
  2. After administrative tasks, the most draining aspect of a physician’s role was reported to be a lack of time with patients. Medical professionals said they felt rushed and unable to spend adequate time on patient care with each visit.
  3. Long hours at work were cited as a major drain on physicians’ emotional energy. Especially among ER and hospital doctors, long shifts and too many hours significantly contribute to psychological and professional drain.
  4. Patient demand is overwhelming to many medical professionals. The fourth most pressing cause of burnout is attributed to an overwhelming amount of patients.
  5. Online reputation is a new but pressing concern for physicians. Pressure to receive good online reviews and patient feedback contributes to experiencing physician burnout.

What is the number one cause of physician burnout?

Excessive administrative work and bureaucratic tasks are the top cause of physician burnout across the industry. Doctors of all specialties cite endless paperwork, note taking, and online record keeping as their most stressful job responsibility. Physicians as well as physician assistants and nurse practitioners complained of spending more time on admin than practicing medicine. Growing admin responsibilities are the top concern for medical professionals struggling to combat burnout.

What percentage of physicians have burnout?

Over 60% of physicians report suffering from symptoms of burnout. This is consistent with a historical trend of growing mental health issues among physicians due to job stress. Physicians working in emergency medicine suffer the most from professional burnout, but all specialties report at least some level of burnout symptoms.

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