Since at least the 19th century, patients have crossed international borders looking for better or cheaper medical care. This “medical tourism” has evolved to a point where patients from developed countries who are seeking lower cost care travel to developing nations to receive the same high-quality care at reduced prices.
One of the most common cardiac surgeries, CABG, could cost between $33,000 and $64,000 in the United States, but may be as little as $5,000 in a developing nation. The skills of a cardiothoracic surgeon are in high demand—whether that’s in a developing nation or in a rural hospital in another state.
And being a locum tenens cardiothoracic surgeon is one way to use your skills to travel the country or the world.
Locum Tenens: What to Expect
When you work locum tenens, you are serving as a “place holder” surgeon, or working temporarily at a new location until a facility can acquire a permanent employee. While this might seem risky, it allows you to travel, expand your professional network and experience new things. But it takes more than just signing up with a locum tenens agency and jetting off to your new assignment.
Time Away From Home
While some locum tenens assignments can be near your residence, others are across the country or world and assignments can last from weeks to months. Do you have any additional commitments that would prevent you from taking on a locum tenens position? Are you ready to leave your practice or hospital and spend time elsewhere?
How Adaptable Are You?
Different hospitals and healthcare systems use different systems, have their own set of politics and idiosyncrasies, which would require you to quickly adapt to a different way of doing things. If you enjoy the teaching aspect of your job or certain administrative tasks, this option may not be for you as you would be focusing purely on the surgical aspect of your role.
If you can travel and aren’t bothered by adapting to new situations quickly, locums work might be something you would want to consider.
Would You Enjoy a Temporary Job?
Locums work is like any other temp situation. Often, how enjoyable the experience is depends on why the position is available. Are you filling in for someone on vacation or parental leave? Or is the working environment so unpleasant that the hospital cannot keep someone in that position long enough to be considered permanent? Is the person you’re filling in for so overworked they needed a break before their health suffered?
If you are interested in locums work, it is important to find a reputable locums tenens agency. The National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations (NALTO) maintains a list of reputable agencies as well as tips for conducting your job search.
According to NALTO, reputable agencies will never submit your name or credentials for a position without your consent. Before your information is submitted, an agency representative should be able to give you enough information about the position — the location and terms — so that you can accept or decline the opportunity.
Similarly, when you accept an opportunity from a reputable agency, you should not be surprised by the hours, procedures you are expected to perform, the patient volume or the supportive staff, because this information will have been given to you prior to accepting the position. Any internal turmoil the location is experiencing should also be disclosed to you.
A reputable agency won’t just give you in depth information about an opportunity, it will also ensure you: have paid malpractice insurance, paid travel to assignments, paid accommodations, assistance with licensure, and get the appropriate orientation for your assignment.
Travel doesn’t have to be something reserved for vacations. Doing your research, finding a reputable agency and taking your needs into account can result in a fulfilling locums position that can help you treat patients in need and expand your personal and professional horizons.