Women locum tenens physicians carve out their own niche
- Young, single women physicians more likely to accept temporary contracts.
- Many women prefer solo or group private practices over large, acute care facilities.
- Pay for women based on services, not gender.
NO LOOKING BACK
"The only regret I have about my locum tenens experience is that I did not do it sooner," states Melissa M. Campbell, MD, a psychiatrist who splits her contracts between two staffing companies, including Jackson & Coker, based in Alpharetta, Georgia. "This has been so much fun."
Practicing since 1996, Dr. Campbell holds five licenses. Like Dr. Johnson, she, too, opted to practice locum tenens the first year after her residency. In her case, Dr. Campbell and her husband, Mike, went to New Zealand. "My husband is a semi-retired chemical engineer and he taught while we were abroad."
Upon their return to the States, Dr. Campbell continued to agree to the occasional local locum tenens opportunity while she built up her private practice in the Southwest. But after running the business for 6 years, the administrative responsibilities began to take their toll. She explains, "It was such a worry dealing with managed care, legal compliance, and financial overhead. The business aspect became a distraction from my medical practice.
"So because I had enjoyed my time abroad," Dr. Campbell continues, "I decided to close my practice and return to locum tenens full-time." And that is exactly what she has been up to for the past 4 years.
"I enjoy the diversity locum tenens affords, including going into new medical practices and seeing how they are run. I especially like returning to places I have practiced at before—I am 100% recyclable."
To date, Dr. Campbell has cared for patients throughout the Southwest, Northwest, and Pacific Northwest. "Location is one of the biggest factors in how I choose an opportunity," she says. "I primarily look for inpatient facilities or outpatient mental health clinics, particularly those operated by Indian Health Services. But the facility has to be located in a town or region my husband would like to visit because he comes with me about half of the time I am away on long-distance opportunities."
In fact, you could call Dr. Campbell a bit of a snowbird: During the winter, she prefers to stay close to home, seeking out local contracts, and in the summer, she likes to leave the heat behind and venture into cooler climates. "However, I try to limit my time away from home to 2 or 3 months."
When she does travel alone, it takes some planning and consideration. For example, Dr. Campbell is selective when it comes to housing accommodations. "Women can be a target for potential violence, so I like to ask for a room on the higher floors of hotels. I also inquire about the safest possible parking, and any security issues at the facility."
Additionally, she tries to arrive a day or two early so she can become acquainted with the community. Dr. Campbell also relies on the firsthand experiences of other locum tenens physicians. "I find talking with them extremely helpful. You tend to get very honest answers from fellow physicians as well as sound advice.
"For example," she says, "it was recommended to me by another locum tenens physician to rent a UPS box as my mailing address so I could have my correspondence forwarded to me on a regular basis. When you are on the road, you have paperwork to keep up with, and it can be detrimental in securing a new license or credentialing if the documentation is lost in the mail or you miss a deadline due to delivery delays."
In terms of fitting in with the core staff, Dr. Campbell has encountered few difficulties. "I am basically an extrovert and enjoy meeting new people, especially on the job. I make sure to emphasize that I am there to fit into their system and not the other way around. If they want things processed a certain way, then I ask them to please let me know."
Dr. Campbell enjoys this lifestyle so much that she plans on continuing with locum tenens opportunities until she retires. "I have no plans to return to a permanent practice. I am just much happier now."