Locum tenens may offer a flexible practice option

May 1, 2006

You are a middle-aged urologist. You have worked hard for 30-plusyears and you are not enjoying the business side of medicine.However, you do enjoy taking care of patients and enjoy coming tothe office and doing office procedures. What are your options?

You can turn in your rectal gloves, microscope, and Van Buren sounds and retire, but you feel much too vibrant and too active to sail into the medical sunset. The other alternative is locum tenens (LT), which is Latin for "one holding a place."

What kind of practices are looking for locum tenens doctors? Any place where physicians can practice can provide an opportunity for a locum tenens physician. The range is from the VA, to solo practitioners in a rural community, to an EM department in a resort community that needs to meet the increased volume of patients in high season. The types of practices looking for LT physicians include hospitals, HMOs, and multi-specialty groups, as well as small groups and solo practices. VISTA also offers international placements in New Zealand and Australia.

The LT doctor: Three profiles

There are three profiles of physicians interested in LT.

The first is the younger physician just out of training. Most physicians in training do not have the opportunity to explore different practice models and the LT experience may provide the young doctor that hands-on or close up look before he seeks a permanent location or practice.

The second is the mid-career physician who is in transition between practices. Examples might include a physician who didn't make partner or the physician who didn't find a practice exactly to his liking.

The mid-career physician may not want to practice in the same geographic area and would like to use LT as an opportunity to explore another practice opportunity.

The third, and most common type of physician seeking LT is the older physician who wants to semi-retire. They may feel like slowing down and devoting most of their medical energies to seeing patients. For them, LT is an ideal way to continue to engage in the practice of medicine without all of the responsibilities of running a practice.

"The beauty of LT is that the agency coordinates all of the details for you," Dr. Kolff said. "Your housing expenses, travel expenses to and from the LT, car rental, and even your professional liability coverage are paid for."