Local locums: Caring for patients close to home
When most people think of locum tenens, they imagine a physician flying across the country or packing multiple suitcases for a long assignment. While it’s true many locums physicians do travel far from home, many others prefer to stay close to home. Here are the stories of three Weatherby Healthcare physicians who have worked only local locum tenens jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and why it’s the right fit for them.
OB/GYN Dr. Roseann Freundel began working locum tenens in 2017. After a few years traveling long distances to assignments, she began looking for locum tenens jobs she could easily drive to. She’s now working in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, just a few hours away from her home in Virginia.
“There are five hospitals in a reasonable driving distance, anywhere from one to five hours from my home, and that’s very doable,” Dr. Freundel says. “I can more easily travel back and forth, so I can shorten the length of some of my assignments, take a couple of days off, and then come back.”
Dr. Freundel says she’s fortunate she worked with her recruiter to put this schedule in place in March 2020, right before the pandemic hit the United States. The closer assignments have allowed her to avoid airports and also keep up with work at home.
“There are things you need to do like pay bills and keep up with house stuff when you’re away for a significant period of time. I had no one to take over those chores,” she says. “I can be on assignment for a couple weeks and then come home and take care of all these things.”
For Dr. Michael Cormican, a trauma surgeon and surgical critical care intensivist, locum tenens has given him the flexibility to be able to step in and help out in his part of Georgia whenever he has a little extra time.
“When COVID-19 picked up and there was a lot of need in the area, I felt it was my responsibility to help out wherever I could,” he says. “I’ve got my regular job that keeps me really busy, and then I do as many locum shifts as I can. It’s been really easy to fit it in, and they’ve been pretty accommodating fitting it in around my regular job too.”
Since the hospitals Dr. Cormican fills in at are between two and 15 miles away from his home, he can take local locum tenens jobs without worrying about the travel and just focus on helping people.
“I’m centrally located between the hospitals I go to. I have the training and ability to help all those people when there’s a lot of bad stuff going on,” Dr. Cormican says. “It just seems like the right thing to do.”
Though he may eventually take assignments further from home, Dr. Cormican says the experience he’s gained at area hospitals has been invaluable.
“My background is more surgical critical care, and most of the locums jobs I’ve done have been more medical critical care, particularly with COVID-19. The surgical and medical worlds are totally different,” he says. “Surgeons and doctors think differently and approach problems differently. There’s advantages and disadvantages to both ways, and so being able to learn from both and do both is pretty helpful.”
Closer to family
Dr. Stephanie Bui, a vascular surgeon, had been working in West Virginia, a 13-hour drive from her home in Missouri. When her parents’ health began to decline, she began considering other options and found a local locums tenens position that allowed her to live much closer to family. Dr. Bui usually works 7-10 days and can then drive just 90 minutes to her parents’ home until her next shift.
“The proximity to home is definitely helpful, because it allows me some flexibility to look in on my parents,” she says. “I also felt really driven to do something when the pandemic broke out. I felt I could be useful in the OR and felt energized by filling a spot that was needed. With so many uncertainties in society as well as in health systems, I just feel like the OR is where I know how things are going to go.”
It also means she doesn’t have to worry about flying and the risk of cancelled flights or other delays.
“I’ve not traveled by air during the pandemic. It’s definitely very reassuring to my mind that if the airline shuts down or cancels or quarantines people, I can still get to my assignment because I’m driving,” Dr. Bui says. “It’s something so small, but it’s something really impactful.”
Whether you prefer to stay closer to family or want to avoid traveling as much as possible, local locum tenens jobs can help you supplement your income, gain experience, and enjoy a more flexible schedule.