How to build a medical career that works for you

June 11th, 2024 7 Min read How to build a medical career that works for you Blog

Andrew Wilner, MD, FACP, FAAN, shares how locum tenens allows you to build a medical career that suits your individual needs.

My greatest reward for teaching medical students and residents is sharing their unbridled excitement for learning. After practicing medicine for over 40 years, I confess it’s difficult to recapture the thrill of discovering the medical arts. Years of packed workdays, a demanding pace, time pressures, and emotional intensity can take their toll on even the most dedicated and enthusiastic physicians.

The beginnings of medical burnout

Ennui — a French-coined term for boredom — refers to a specific type of boredom that can affect life in general, a relationship, or your career. The symptoms typically include weariness, dissatisfaction, apathy, and the tendency to feel that everything is uninteresting and unfulfilling. Sound familiar?

If you are a physician with a busy clinical practice, you may have experienced ennui. No matter how much we love our work, the daily burden of repetitive tasks may allow boredom to set in. Even those with the most exciting jobs occasionally experience ennui. Unfortunately, ennui may be a prelude to burnout. But eradicating ennui and burnout will go a long way to elevating your mood and work performance.

Overcoming medical burnout with locums

Locum tenens affords opportunities to practice medicine for a specific amount of time — days, weeks, months, or even years at a particular location. The fixed commitment allows a physician to fully engage with the knowledge that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can work as much as you desire, depending on your financial goals. A doctor I knew hopped from assignment to assignment to maximize her earnings. As for me, I take breaks every several months each year to travel to Southeast Asia and go on a scuba dive. To each his own!

Graphic with text stating that locums physicians can choose how long they stay in one location

Part-time locums is a terrific way to reinvigorate your enthusiasm for clinical medicine. Every assignment exists because a clinic or hospital must satisfy patient demand. Rather than a daily grind, locums offers select opportunities to treat patients who desperately need a competent, caring physician.

Interested in locums? Here’s how to get started

Boundless opportunities for travel

Locum tenens physicians can travel to many geographic regions in the U.S. and abroad, to destinations like AustraliaNew Zealand, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. My locums assignments have brought me to locales I probably never would have visited, such as Minneapolis, Phoenix, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Graphic with text stating that a staffing agency like CompHealth can help you find work that matches your preferences

On the other hand, locums opportunities may be within driving distance of your home and do not require a plane ticket. A staffing agency like CompHealth can help locate clinical work that matches the magnitude of your wanderlust.

Do you have what it takes? Dr. Wilner discusses the essential skills necessary for working locum tenens:

Serving the underserved

While in Minnesota, I treated many Somali immigrants, some of whom had infectious diseases not commonly seen in the U.S. It turns out that Minneapolis - St. Paul has the largest Somali population outside of Somalia!

Working for the Indian Health Service (IHS) is another unique opportunity. The IHS's primary aim is to address the needs of indigenous Americans. It offers unique opportunities in remote locations and provides a taste of something new.

Physicians can also choose to assist military veterans at Veterans Health Administration hospitals. In my spare time, I work locum tenens at the local VA. Veterans tend to suffer a constellation of chronic illnesses and may have superimposed problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Many veterans genuinely appreciate concerned, compassionate care from locum tenens physicians.

Travel and do good: How to serve a medical mission

Rekindling your love of medicine with locums

Locum tenens can transform clinical work from a daily grind to an adventure. Traveling to far-flung locales and helping underserved populations can extinguish ennui and prevent burnout. Locum tenens assignments are one way to fall in love with medicine again.

Graphic with text stating that locums can turn a daily grind into an adventure

Interested in learning more about locum tenens? Give us a call at 800.453.3030 or view locum tenens job opportunities.


Dr. Andrew Wilner

Andrew Wilner, MD, FACP, FAAN, is a neurologist, health journalist, and an avid SCUBA diver. His latest book is The Locum Life: A Physician's Guide to Locum Tenens. He hosts the biweekly podcast "The Art of Medicine with Dr. Andrew Wilner" and the YouTube channel "Underwater with Dr. Andrew."

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