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Posted on
May 31, 2023

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Traveling Physician

Now more than ever, traveling physicians are essential to meet growing patient care demands.

Underserved and remote communities in the United States and around the world depend on traveling physicians to deliver essential medical services.

And while working as a traveling physician performing locum tenens work has become a popular option for many doctors, like any job, working as a traveling physician comes with its ups and downs.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of becoming a traveling physician.

What Is a Traveling Physician?

Also known as locum tenens physicians, traveling physicians take a temporary position in the place of another doctor until a reliable permanent replacement can be found. Commonly, traveling physicians stand in for full-time, primary physicians taking parental or medical leave although staffing shortages and an increase in patient care demands may also prompt demand for locum tenens physicians.

Traveling physician assignments can be as brief as a few days or as long as several months, depending on the nature of the contract. Locums assignments are available at healthcare facilities nationwide and around the world, encompassing all manner of specialties. There are plenty of benefits that locum tenens work gives physicians, including a unique opportunity to travel while earning competitive pay.

Traveling Physician vs. Locum Tenens Physician

A traveling physician is considered a locum tenens physician. For all intents and purposes, a traveling doctor is the same as a locum tenens doctor because they take various assignments in healthcare settings away from home.

However, traveling physicians are not to be confused with travel physicians who specialize in diseases and conditions commonly acquired in the process of travel. Travel physicians specialize in providing immunizations, preventative medicine, and overall health support for patients who are traveling abroad. They usually have their own private practice in a brick-and-mortar location and do not necessarily travel for work themselves.

Evolution of Traveling Physicians

Physicians in the US began working as traveling locum tenens doctors around the late 1970s. Traveling physician programs were first instituted in order to substitute temporary doctors for primary physicians in rural areas as those primary physicians underwent additional training to better serve patient populations. The traveling physicians were able to provide excellent care in the stead of the primary physicians, and the success of these programs lead to the founding of the first locum tenens staffing agencies.

Today, the need for traveling physicians is undeniable. An estimated 75% of healthcare facilities use some form of locums work to supplement their workforce and traveling doctors are still highly valuable for remote communities in rural areas.

Pros of Becoming a Traveling Physician

There are plenty of pros to becoming a traveling physician. In fact, there are several major benefits to locum tenens work that you should keep in mind:

  • Flexibility - Locum tenens positions offer flexibility with your schedule. You can choose long-term or short-term assignments, full-time or part-time positions, and a location that works for you.
  • Work-life balance - Working as a traveling physician can help doctors avoid burnout associated with a full-time position at a hospital or clinic.
  • Competitive pay - Traveling locum tenens physicians can often command better pay than a traditional salaried position, giving doctors the opportunity to pay off student debt or just boost their bank balance.
  • Freedom - Locums doctors can travel throughout the country or around the world working where they want and when they want.
  • Travel - You can see the world and experience different cultures all without worrying about heavy travel expenses.

Locum tenens work is a great fit for retired physicians, doctors with full or partial availability who are unsatisfied with their current medical practice, or doctors who want to take some extra work on the side.

Really, working as a traveling physician is an attractive option for any physician who wants more flexibility in their work schedule, better work-life balance, and the opportunity to travel.

And with the support of locum staffing agencies that provide housing, malpractice insurance, and other benefits, physicians can make the switch to locum work without worry.

Cons of Becoming a Traveling a Physician

As with any career, working as a traveling physician comes with a few downsides.

  • Homesickness - The length of locum contracts can vary, and it may be challenging to spend extended periods of time away from friends and family.
  • Demand - While locum tenens assignments are available for just about every medical specialty, some physicians are in higher demand than others, which may limit travel opportunities.
  • Adaptability - Taking contracts at many different healthcare facilities in many different locations can be exciting, but each organization will have its own unique systems and infrastructure that will need to be adapted to.

Advice from Expert Traveling Physicians

While every travel assignment is different for locum tenens physicians, there are some actionable tips that expert traveling physicians recommend for getting the most out of locums work.

Choose a great staffing agency

There are lots of locum staffing agencies to choose from. The better the healthcare staffing agency you work with, the better your experience as a traveling physician will be. Caliber assists healthcare professionals with everything they need to succeed from the best jobs to paperwork and travel planning.

Keep up with paperwork

While your staffing agency will take care of most of the paperwork for your travel assignments, it’s still important to have important documents like CVs, diplomas, and certifications on hand.

Be clear about your expectations

It’s important to be clear and upfront with locum tenens organizations about your availability and preferences. Locum assignments can move quickly, and if you aren’t clear about your expectations, locum staffing agencies may not be able to match you with the most relevant jobs.

Share connections

Personal connections to a particular location can help physicians land the best locums jobs. If you grew up in a particular area or completed your education nearby, those connections can help your recruiter match you with preferable assignments.

Get Started with Your Traveling Physician Career with Us

There are many benefits of working as a traveling physician, but it can feel overwhelming to continually negotiate new contracts, search for your next opportunity, and find insurance on your own.

That is where a dedicated locum tenens agency like Caliber can help.

Our experts are always there to assist with professional development, job alerts, contract negotiation, a custom career plan, and anything else you may need to make your locum tenens opportunity a success.

We can assist you with the logistics of your locum tenens work including travel, housing, and insurance. Our team focuses on connecting you with the most relevant jobs and is always there to advocate for you.

About Caliber

Caliber connects qualified healthcare professionals with the facilities that need them most. We use a specialty-focused recruitment approach to connect the right providers with the right hospitals and clinics. Whether it's a few extra shifts or full-time locums jobs, we provide a comprehensive range of assignments for our clients.

If you're interested in traveling as a locum tenens physician, get in touch with Caliber today.

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