It’s true that young, single physicians have a lot to gain from working locums, but the upside of this lifestyle extends to providers in every life stage. Just ask Dr. David Hubler, an orthopedic surgeon who’s been practicing medicine for 38 years. He found out that locum tenens with a spouse is not only possible and practical – it’s opened the door to new personal fulfillment for himself and his wife.
Here are four of the advantages they enjoy most as a couple.
1. Seeing the country and making memories together
Locum tenens gives the Hublers the freedom to travel to places they’ve always wanted to see. Dr. Hubler enjoys being able to pick and choose the assignments that suit their shared interests in the moment.
“I don’t have to go to every place that they offer me. My wife usually has first choice of saying, ‘Yes, this sounds like an interesting thing,’ and then we’ll talk about it and we’ll go from there.”
In the 10 years that Dr. Hubler has been working locum tenens, he and his wife have been to Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia. His enthusiasm about their experiences in these places is obvious and contagious.
“I love taking my wife on assignments. With the longer [ones] it’s easy to take her along and we get involved in the community. She usually ends up volunteering at different places wherever we go. Usually within three months we know more about the area than the people who’ve lived there 30 years. It’s our only opportunity to be in that location, so we take advantage of it.”
2. Building their professional and personal network
The personal and professional friendships the Hublers continue to form around the country enrich their lives in a lasting way.
“Every place I go I get a chance to develop friendships there. If you make a point of being friendly, it’s amazing how everybody is friendly back to you. It’s really a wonderful situation and then that friendship carries on wherever we go.”
People they meet during one assignment often come to visit them in the next location when they’re passing through – especially when they have an assignment in a popular destination like Hawaii. The people they get to know represent a mix of local community contacts and some of the colleagues that Dr. Hubler works with in the various facilities he visits.
“Because of the social aspect of being part of an office, you develop a lot of friendships with the office staff, the other doctors there, the people in the hospital, in the operating rooms.”
This aspect of locum tenens pays off for Dr. Hubler on more than one level. In addition to enjoying connections with people around the country who share their personal interests, he also has an ever-growing professional network in the many states where he’s licensed.
3. Fitting work around their lifestyle as a couple
There’s usually a stowaway on board when the Hublers head off to a new assignment. Because they picked the staffing agency that was best for them, it’s easy for them to take their beloved six-pound poodle with them wherever they go.
“Our poodle has been on the airplane 16 times now and travels real well. CompHealth has been very good about helping coordinate places that we stay so that we can take our pet with us. [They also help us with] places that we can have our family come and visit, but our dog just really loves the travel aspect of it.”
The key for Dr. Hubler is that his recruiter spent the time early on to understand his needs, preferences, and family setup. Most of their housing arrangements allow them to host visitors, including their children, grandchildren, and their growing list of friends.
“Our recruiter makes our life easier in that he is looking at all the different assignments that are out there and he knows what we are interested in. When he comes across one that would interest us, he gives us a call and lets us know about it. It’s important to realize that we’re a family. It’s not just me, so we coordinate that together. Wherever I go, take my wife with me and it’s just like a work-cation.”
Of course, Dr. Hubler’s scheduling preferences come into play as well. His recruiter pays attention to hours, weekends, and other assignment particulars so that the Hublers can make the most of their time off.
4. Happily pressing the pause button on retirement
Before locums, Dr. Hubler was in private practice for 29 years. He was seeing patients until 5:00 or 5:30 p.m., but he says it was 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. before he could finish all the computer and paperwork for the office, insurance companies, and government compliance.
“Locums simplified a lot of that. Yes, we have some computer work and paperwork, but it’s not nearly what it was in operating my own office.”
The main problem Dr. Hubler faced in private practice was that his life was built around medicine. He and his wife had little time left over to pursue any of their outside interests. He wanted more time for things like travel or golf, but he wasn’t ready for full retirement. He still enjoys practicing medicine, and he’s good at it. Locum tenens empowers him to work less and fit his assignments around the things that he and his wife want to do.
Even though Dr. Hubler has more control over his hours now, he still enjoys the acceptance and validation he gets from his staff colleagues when he’s on assignment. They seem to genuinely value his contribution and experience.
“Because they have the need there you really are appreciated, and the locums really does fill a need. There are a lot of places that need somebody to fill in for short times. The docs that are there can’t be there all the time. They need vacations or they retire, and it takes a while for them to find somebody to replace them.”
Summing up, a solid option for any career stage
For different reasons, Dr. Hubler enthusiastically endorses locums for both early and late career physicians.
“When you first start your career, people are thinking in terms of being someplace for about five years and then they really are looking for a change. Certainly, at that point locum tenens would be ideal because you can try different situations, different parts of the country and go from there if you want to stay longer or find a more permanent position. Toward the end of your career it’s really nice because you can slow down. You have more control of when you go and where you go.”
With a smile, his parting advice is, “just give it a try!”