Career Move: Locum tenens physician

Travel, extra income and flexible scheduling can attract physicians to locum tenens opportunities.

By Marcia Travelstead | Career Move | Winter 2012


Avishai Meyer, M.D.
Title: General surgeon
Education: Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv, Israel. Residency at University of Colorado, Denver and University of Nebraska, Omaha. Fellowship at University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha.

What do you like best about being a locum tenens physician?
I’m a locum tenens physician on weekends currently in Pierre, S.D. I like the ability to interact with and provide medical care to a rural population in need. Also, it enables me to see what it’s like in the real world of a surgeon. As a fellow at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, I am sheltered from the burden of blame, if you will. Working as a locum tenens physician gives me a taste for what it’s really like to be a doctor and incurring the entire responsibility of the care I am giving. That’s scary but welcome. It’s not just being carried by the attending. I’m doing it myself.

Is there anything you don’t like about it?
It’s sad to be away from my family. I happen to have a 6-week-old child, so not being around is a little upsetting. We also have a 2-and-a-half-year-old, so it’s difficult for my wife. I’m not there to help out. That would be the only complaint I have about it, but that’s my choice.

Why did you choose to practice locum tenens?
I’m making extra money, so I’ll be able to facilitate good things in the near future. Weighing the pros and cons, I thought it was definitely a pro. At this stage of the game, I can only give them weekends. I plan to do this weekend work for a long time.

It’s hard when you’re still in training. You don’t make much money, and you still have student loan debt and those kinds of things. One thing I do have is motivation and the ability to work.

Does the locum tenens company pay for your airfare and lodging while you are away from home?
Yes. My only out-of-pocket is for food and entertainment.

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Rural Communities—The call of the small

Community health centers and rural locations can provide an enviable pace of life.

By Eileen Lockwood | Live & Practice | Summer 2011


Eric Sandefur, MD, Baker City, Ore.

"For a town of about 10,000, I stay busy all the time and have a full-time assistant as well."

A nightmare episode has forced Dr. Martin Ellingham to give up a successful vascular surgery practice in London. He has developed a pathological fear of blood. As the recently arrived PBS series begins, “Doc Martin” has relocated to a tiny coastal town in Cornwall. He’s obviously less than thrilled with his assignment. Yet no matter how hard he tries to keep patients and neighbors at arm’s length, the people of little Portwenn insist on being friendly. That’s the way it is in small towns.

Meanwhile, in an equally tiny, far-northern Maine community, real-life nephrologist Jenie Smith, M.D., can’t help making the comparison: “(Portwenn) is Eastport,” she says. “I feel like I know every one of those people.”

But there’s a big difference. Smith is delighted to be near the ocean and to associate with people in a tiny island community on Cobscook Bay. There, she spends two days a week with patients at a dialysis center in Eastport, Maine, where she’s the director. Her delight at being near the ocean more than makes up for the some 200 miles she drives from Auburn, where she lives, and Lewiston, where she’s in a group of five practitioners. Her husband, a choral and orchestral conductor, often rides with her to Eastport, and they spend relaxing time at a beachfront cottage. But, she adds, “Wherever you go in town, you can still see water.”

After only one visit to the coast while in medical school at the University of Minnesota, Smith says, “I knew I wanted to be in Maine.” Thirteen years later, “I convinced my now partners that they needed me more than they knew.” more »


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Ithaca, N.Y.: Mini-metropolis of the Finger Lakes

Ithaca, N.Y., features exquisite natural beauty, an off-the-beaten-track location, world-class universities and a growing populace attracted to “the simple life.”

By Eileen Lockwood | Live & Practice | Spring 2011


You could say that Ithaca is Exhibit A for the kind of society envisioned by America’s founding fathers. “People here are engaged,” reports Phyllisa DeSarno, the city’s deputy economic development director. “Everybody comes to city council meetings. There are all different kinds of opinions.”

Brian Bollo, M.D. and Family

The Bollo family moved to Ithaca from the New York City area—and gained hours back in family time each week that used to be spent commuting. I "wanted to be in a hospital and more involved in a place where I could serve people instead of scrambling for patients," says Brian Bollo, M.D.

At the Chamber of Commerce, membership services and public relations director Rob LaHood echoes the thought. “The thing that strikes me most is how everything is a big decision. Everyone chimes in on everything—and all these people have something to say.” In other words, it’s hard for a few politicians to foist unwanted laws on these engaged townspeople.
Sometimes, though rarely, a public meeting becomes the best show in town. DeSarno cites the legendary night when city officials were pondering an extensive upgrade to the road system between the main city and the hospital on the west side of the Cayuga Lake inlet. The proposed new road would have created faster access to the hospital and alleviated heavy traffic on another city street.

The project became “extremely controversial,” recalls Matthys Van Cort, then the city’s planning and development director. Environmentalists were especially concerned about damage to wooded land along the way. “Altogether,” Van Cort says,  “there were too many meetings to count, maybe more than a hundred. This thing got argued to death.”

The most dramatic moment, though, was the arrival of a woman costumed with perky ears and big bushy tail. Championing all furry forest denizens, she seized the microphone and barked, “Who will speak for the squirrels?”

(Bottom line: The squirrels’ land was mostly preserved.)

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Cruise ship physician

A prime cabin, 24/7 food, diversity and the cruising life await

By Marcia Travelstead | Career Move | Spring 2011


NAME: Adriana Yates, M.D.
TITLE: Senior physician
EMPLOYER: Carnival Cruise Lines

Adriana Yates, M.D.

Adriana Yates, M.D.

What do you like best about being a cruise ship physician?
A lot of things. The ship is amazing! As a doctor, you are a senior officer, so you have the best quality of life on board. You have one of the best cabins with a steward to clean your cabin and wash your clothes every day. You have food available 24 hours a day. You are provided with uniforms and have the opportunity to meet people from more than 60 different countries. You can go to different lunches and dinners that are available for guests and crew. You can go to the lounges, shows, work out at the gym or get off at the ports of call. You also have 24-hour Internet access.

What don’t you like about being a cruise ship physician?
The only thing I don’t like is being away from my husband, family and friends for a couple of months. The good thing is that my husband can come with me, but not for long periods of time. more »


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Will work for travel

Looking for a unique experience? International intrigue? Consider locum tenens opportunities both home and abroad.

By By Karen Edwards | Fall 2010 | Feature Articles


David Rideout, MD

During their stay in New Zealand, David Rideout, M.D., and his family visited many of the sites from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy—including Mt. Sunday, pictured here. Although a gigantic castle had been built on this mountain for the filming, Rideout says there is no longer any trace of it.

There are plenty of reasons physicians pack their bags and head overseas to practice medicine. Some have charity at heart, rushing to aid the earthquake victims of Haiti, for example, or to Third World countries where doctors and modern medicine are desperately needed. Others are seeking thrills or experience on a locum tenens basis, an opportunity to travel and work in other locations or with people from other cultures.

Many physicians looking for a chance to practice in an international environment generally head for one of two locations: Australia or New Zealand. Both countries welcome American-trained physicians, and both offer a rich, culturally diverse environment with a common language and a familiar healthcare system.

That’s not to say other practice opportunities don’t exist, however. Amy Griffin, director of the international division of recruiting firm VISTA Staffing Solutions, currently places physicians in Bermuda, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, with plans for expansion.

Recently, the United Arab Emirates—especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi—also has opened its doors to American physicians. There, new hospitals are being built at a rapid pace, says Steve Frank, a senior search consultant for the Missouri-based recruiting firm Enterprise Medical Services. “Some adventurous American physicians decide to go there, looking for a challenge,” he says. For the most part, though, physicians immigrating to the Middle East are originally from that part of the world and are heading back to be close to family.

In New Zealand, however, International Medical Graduates (IMGs for short) are increasingly becoming the norm. Ian Powell, executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, recently told a reporter on New Zealand’s TV One that more than 40 percent of New Zealand’s specialist physicians are IMGs. more »


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Upper Peninsula, Mich.—Call of the Wild

Never mind it's reputation for snow and cold. The Upper Peninsula is a Valhalla for outdoor aficionados and the independence-minded who revel in small town solidarity but embrace modern medical technology.

By Eileen Lockwood | Live & Practice | May/June 2008


Gateway to the UP, Mackinac City overlooks the harbor.

Gateway to the UP, Mackinac City overlooks the harbor.

Anyone with less than a B.A. in geography might think of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as a kind of Bali Ha’i, that mysterious “special island” hidden in the mist.

The more knowledgeable might recall this 16,452-square-mile piece of real estate as a territorial leftover the state got stuck with after losing the so-called Toledo War in 1836. Giving up a thin strip of northern Ohio was the price Michiganders paid for statehood. Most thought no good would come from owning this region cut off from “civilization” by cold Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and—more logically—part of Wisconsin. Some said its weather could be defined as “ten months of snow and two months’ poor sledding.”

Skeptics would soon discover the advantages, and, much more recently, so would some enthusiastic physicians from other parts of the U.S., some with nostalgic childhood memories. Richard Armstrong, MD, grew up, coincidentally, in Toledo. “My uncle,” he fondly recalls, “used to spend time at a cabin near Black Lake. I liked Northern Michigan probably better than anywhere I ever went as a kid. One morning, (a recruiter) called me. She kept going on and on about this great opportunity in the Midwest in a beautiful recreational area on the Great Lakes. I said, ‘Where is this?’ She said, ‘In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Now don’t hang up.'”

The opportunity was in Ironwood with another doctor practicing solo after his father’s retirement. “I flew up from Chicago. He took me out to a fish fry in a local bar.” The next morning, they talked business, inspected the hospital, and Armstrong agreed to make the move. But, the clincher, as he describes it, was “the solitude, pine trees, sand, smell of the trees, the lake like glass, the sun coming up in a mist. They reminded me of my feelings when I was a teenager, and I guess it was that, more than anything, that persuaded me to come. more »


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