Early-career dermatologists looking to gain experience, work alongside other dermatologists, explore different practice settings, and even earn additional income may benefit from locum tenens assigments. But is this work modality right for you? Read on to find out!
Dermatologist Zain Husain, MD, moved from Washington, D.C., to his home state of New Jersey to open his own practice. Since the practice buildout would take several months, Dr. Husain looked for temporary part-time work.
“I heard of an opportunity to cover a senior dermatologist in the area who was scheduled for emergency neck surgery,” Dr. Husain said. “We met and discussed the position and it worked well for both parties.”
Dr. Husain served as a locum tenens provider, a physician who works a temporary assignment. Keith Shattuck, CEO of All Star Healthcare Solutions, a locum tenens staffing agency, said this practice modality “enables early-career dermatologists to work alongside other dermatologists and staff and to see how one or more practices run before they join an existing practice or open their own.”
Dr. Husain said his locum tenens assignment provided him with valuable experience. “It helped me as I established my practice,” he said. “I incorporated some of the efficiencies I learned from my locum tenens work into my new practice.”
While his locum tenens assignment was close to home, many are not. Sheila Farhang, MD, served as a locum tenens Mohs surgeon before starting her own practice. She flew cross-country weekly for about seven months.
“Locums may not be for everyone,” Dr. Farhang said. “I don’t have any children and my husband was understanding, which made it work. The cross-country weekly flights were pretty exhausting, but I knew I had to do it.”
Shattuck said locum tenens offers dermatologists flexibility in trying out different practice locations and types. “They can, in essence, ‘try before they buy’ prior to making a long-term commitment. This type of jobs are available throughout the country in different states and within a range of practices and facilities, and offer various schedules.”
Kim Campbell, founder of Dermatology Authority, a dermatology recruiting, consulting and communications agency, connected Dr. Husain with his locum tenens position and helped him with resources to start his practice. She said some locum tenens jobs are “very well-paying because there’s always an urgent need.” However, she recommends this type of work only when the dermatologist is comfortable working alone, if the practice doesn’t include other dermatologists.
Campbell also cautioned that sometimes locum tenens dermatologists “are walking into a situation where there’s a health-related or legal problem with the practice,” and that they “may not reap the same benefits as those who establish themselves at the same practice for years at a time.”
Shattuck said the flexibility of locum tenens opportunities – and the myriad of opportunities – allows dermatologists to choose a temporary position that’s the best fit for them and “test drive” before making a commitment.
“Every All Star locum tenens assignment has a 30-day out,” Shattuck said. “If a dermatologist chooses to go into a permanent opportunity right out of residency or fellowship, they will be locked in for a much longer period of time.”
He advised dermatologists interested in this type of work to seek opportunities with a staffing firm. “Quality locum tenens staffing companies make sure that the doctors working with them are comfortable and feel safe, handle all arrangements for their travel and accommodations, and provide support throughout their assignments.”
Shattuck said some clinicians choose to do locum tenens full-time and indefinitely, or in addition to working full-time as a way to pay off debt or increase savings. He said locum tenens physicians who work with a full-service staffing firm can receive permanent opportunities, too, if they choose.
Dr. Husain’s temporary assignment allowed him to see a full schedule of patients, and since the practice only accepted cash, he said the compensation was “quite generous.”
He recommended dermatologists investigate insurance coverage and malpractice liability insurance before accepting a locum tenens position. He’s thankful for the role locum tenens played in his career.
“It’s a great opportunity to practice in a new environment for short periods of time,” Dr. Husain said. “The patients were extremely appreciative of my care.”
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