Love medicine again through locum tenens

March 6th, 2024 10 Min read Love medicine again through locum tenens Blog

Whether you’ve been working as a physician for just a few years, have four decades of experience under your belt, or fall somewhere in between, burnout is a serious issue many providers face. Fortunately, the flexibility of locum tenens work can make it possible to love medicine again. Here’s how two physicians revitalized their careers while working locum tenens with CompHealth.

Locum tenens gives you more options

As a mid-career oncologist, Dr. Tina Passalaris was busy with her career at an academic institution in Seattle and a new baby who made sleep difficult. When her father-in-law in Cyprus was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Dr. Passalaris and her family decided to move there to be closer to him.

Dr. Passalaris initially took a position at the oncology center where her father-in-law was being treated, which allowed her to support him and continue to work. When the experience there deteriorated, Dr. Passalaris learned that a colleague needed temporary coverage for maternity leave.

“We agreed that I would cover her for four months, and that was my first locum experience. I thought, ‘Wow, that went really well,’” Dr. Passalaris recalls. “‘Why not continue this?’”

Quote about how well a physician's first locums experience went

Being present with family again

Leaving a full-time position for part-time locum tenens work has allowed Dr. Passalaris to spend more time with her family. At the intense university hospital job she held previously, her workload made it impossible to be more present in her children’s lives.

“I was at work before the kids woke up. I did not come home until well after a respectable dinner hour, and when I was home, I would have to sign on to the VPN and finish all my charts, and clean up my email. It really was a miserable experience,” Dr. Passalaris says. “I was absent for all of my children’s activities. I never went to school plays or dance recitals.”

Locums allows for schedule flexibility

Today, Dr. Passalaris continues to live in Cyprus with her family and accepts locum tenens assignments around the globe. While she does leave for one to six weeks at a time, she prefers this schedule because it means dedicating 100% to her job while she’s away and then being 100% a mom when she’s home.

“I’m actually at home more than on assignment, so I get to see quite a bit of what my children do, and I’m very much involved with their daily lives. I know who their friends are; I know who their teachers are,” Dr. Passalaris says. “I’m involved in a lot of their activities. My 15-year-old wanted to start a farm to rescue thoroughbreds that have been abused from horse racing, so we started that project. I would not be able to do anything like this if I were working full-time somewhere.”

When she began her career in locum tenens and before her second child was born, Dr. Passalaris also freed up enough time between assignments to write a book.

“I completely create my own schedule. I also have the freedom of my free time. I say no if there’s an assignment in July and August when my children are free from school and we’re traveling,” she explains. “I can say, ‘No, I’m not going to work those months. I’m just going to be with my children,' and no one’s going to look down on me for that.”

Quote from Dr. Passalaris about schedule freedom with locum tenens

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Recharging and rethinking retirement

Working as the sole pulmonary critical care physician in a semi-rural, two-hospital system in Pennsylvania, Dr. Richard Rothfleisch says he realized he was working harder each year and making less money, even as a late-career physician.

“The frustrations, the nonmedical things such as getting paid for doing my work, dealing with the insurance companies and covering the overhead, the insurance and the employee issues became more burdensome,” he recalls. “Then my life circumstances changed in the form of divorce and my kids being older, and I started to think about doing locums.”

Working less without losing income

When he ran the numbers, Dr. Rothfleisch found that he could make the same amount of money working locum tenens 14-15 days a month. With his then-fiancé and now wife, Dr. Rothfleisch determined they could live wherever they’d like since he would now have much more time off with no cut in pay.

“I had never in my life experienced that much time to myself where I could just do what I wanted to do. We moved to South Florida, which satisfied kind of a lifelong goal of my wife’s, and I have discovered a passion for saltwater fishing,” Dr. Rothfleisch says.

“When I’m home, I’m home. There’s no pager, no callbacks. We’re either at the beach or on the kayaks or paddleboarding or taking a boat out and going fishing,” he continues. “When you go back to work after a week like that, you’re totally recharged. You work hard, bring your best game, and then go back home for a week and do something else.”

Quote from physician about feeling recharged working locum tenens

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Avoiding physician burnout with locum tenens

Dr. Rothfleisch points out that locum tenens work has allowed him to escape the physician burnout affecting many providers who don’t get the chance to rest. It also makes it possible to love medicine again.

“It’s been an opportunity to kind of cast off that weight and return to the joyous aspects of practicing medicine, which is patients and dealing with medicine itself, the mental challenge, the coming in and fixing some potential disaster and then getting a big hug from Grandma,” he says. “That’s pretty priceless. I truly wish I would have done it sooner.”

Dr. Rothfleisch found the joy in practicing medicine again with locums

Working locums as a semi-retirement

As Dr. Rothfleisch nears retirement, he hopes to continue working much longer than he originally planned because locum tenens assignments will allow him to cut back to working only one week or 10 days a month if he’d like to.

“Now I think about retirement in a different way because, truly, I still enjoy what I do. It gives me great satisfaction and a level of meaning in my life. I think full retirement is overrated. Often, if I have 10 days off, I feel ready to go back to work,” he says. “I’m blessed with good health. There’s significant longevity in my family. If I stay healthy, I’ll do this well into my 70s.”

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It’s time to start loving medicine again

With the ability to set their own schedules, work fewer hours, and spend more time cultivating hobbies and enjoying relationships with family and friends, Drs. Passalaris and Rothfleisch have rekindled their passion for practicing medicine. If you’re interested in avoiding burnout and loving medicine again, learn more about locum tenens by clicking the button below.

Want to learn more about locum tenens opportunities for physicians? Give us a call or view today’s locum tenens job opportunities.


Lindsay Wilcox

Lindsay Wilcox is a communication professional with experience writing for the healthcare and entertainment industries as well as local government. When she's not circling typos, she's enjoying fish tacos and hanging out with her family.

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