20 April 2016
As the Affordable Care Act continues to transform the healthcare industry, we’ve seen an uptick in the demand for locum tenens physicians in recent years. For Dr. Zoe Lewis, MD, a career as a locum tenens physician wasn’t always exactly what she imagined doing. However, it only took a few years in the healthcare industry for her to realize that a career as a locum tenens physician gave her the flexibility she needed to build her technical skills, while focusing on her personal development. We asked Dr. Lewis about her experiences in the field, and here’s what she had to say… What made you pursue a career as a locum tenens physician? After 10 years of working in full-time, longer-term positions, I wanted to be in greater control of my schedule, income, and creativity. To help spur this change, I left two prestigious positions in Boston, Massachusetts and moved to Miami Beach, Florida, to take a year off. During that period before I became a locum physician, I took art classes at Florida International University, traveled to four different continents, started practicing yoga, published three books, and started an internet radio show. While I was able to focus on certain aspects of my personal life, these activities also kept my clinical knowledge fresh through the relationships I built working on various projects. Once I felt I had a better idea of the type of career I wanted for myself—one that gave me greater flexibility to take control of my career goals—I partnered with a locum tenens staffing firm. In 2006, I became a full-time independent locum tenens hospitalist and never looked back. Today, I earn the income I choose, and have more free time to do the things I love. What are some things you look forward to on a daily basis? As an independent locum tenens hospitalist, I look forward to using my strong clinical and interpersonal skills to help my patients and colleagues in every way I can. The beauty of locum life as a doctor is that we have the ability to take a step back to regroup—something that is key to consistently performing at a high level. Although 12-hour long shifts can be demanding, it’s reassuring to know that after about a week of that schedule, I can rest and recharge. For example, after spending long periods of time with a particular client, I can ensure my schedule permits me to do the things I love like sleeping in late, practicing yoga, watching sunrises and sunsets, or riding my bicycle. What is the most enjoyable part of your career as a locum tenens physician? I love having the ability to set my own income goal(s) and work to achieve them at my own pace. For example, if I know I want to take an extended trip I can create my own plan for achieving this goal. Based on the number of shifts I need to complete in a specific year or month, I can assess how much income and time it will take to make that trip happen. What would be your advice to someone considering a career in the locum tenens field? My first bit of advice for aspiring independent contractors would be to start gathering your documents to be credentialed as early as possible. Since certain state licensing processes can take as long as four months, you risk being out of work if your documents aren’t up-to-date. Aside from this, I encourage people to speak with other locum professionals to get a better sense of their experiences and what it is like to work with different organizations. In addition, I recommend asking for an orientation prior to your start date. It can be challenging to balance the needs of your patients and colleagues while learning new policies and procedures, so it’s important to ensure you have everything you need to hit the ground running. Finally, it’s important to consider the best work schedule for your needs as every contractor seeks a different work/life balance. How is success measured in your role? Success in any area of life is measured by your personal sense of worth and happiness. As a locum tenens physician, the overall health and safety of my patients is one of the best measures of success. Helping a patient through a very difficult point in their life and seeing the direct impact I have on their health makes me feel accomplished in my role. Before you choose to pursue a career as a locum physician, think about what you are hoping to get out of this type of work and if it will be the best fit for your needs. If independent contracting as a locum tenens physician gives you the income and work/life balance you want while building your network and providing a high level of care, locum tenens can be a very rewarding career! To learn more about Dr. Zoe Lewis, visit her website @ zoealewis.com.