Lets face it. The day-to-day grind as a physician can be brutal; between caring for patients, charting, dealing with admin, etc, there isn’t a lot of time or fuel left for much else. Whatever time remains is spent with family and recharging your batteries only to do it all over again. Many of us had interests beyond medicine that we naively thought we would have time to pursue once we graduated from residency. For most of us, that time never came.
I was in the same rut a few years ago. Although I really liked my job, I felt agitated. Why? I was only working 140 hours a month, but the rotating schedule of EM shift work wore me down. My days off were spent recovering from the busy string of shifts I had just finished. There wasn’t much time, or frankly energy, to be creative and try new things.
I began picking up locum shifts in addition to my full time job to supplement income and pay off student debt. At the same time, I filed for incorporation of my side gig. Although this added to my work load, I realized quickly that locum work had a lot of potential. How? I gave the locum job shifts I could work instead of being handed a schedule every month. They always seemed to work around my schedule and were extremely grateful for any shifts I could offer them. I’m not going to lie, but it felt good finally being appreciated.
The realization that locums as a career would allow me the flexibility to dedicate more time to my side gig came a few months later. This is how I did it. I gave my 90-day notice to my full time job and started scheduling shifts at two different locum sites. Once I was no longer employed, I reduced my locum shift load by 60-70% compared to what I was working at my full time job. I also chose the days I wanted to work. But wait, if I was working less, didn’t that mean I had to take a big pay cut? Negative. On the contrary, I make 10-20% more now, even after paying for my own health, disability and life insurance. Locums for the win!
So now that I could adjust my schedule any way I wanted, I had to think about how to do so in a way that would help jump start my side gig. As an EM doc, my days, nights, weekends, weekdays, and holidays were all the same; meaning I worked them all regularly. The rest of the business world operates 9-5, Monday-Friday. Since my full time schedule was all over the place, I needed more consistency and open weekdays to grow the business, make meetings, phone calls, travel, etc. I adjusted my locum shifts so I could be free most weekdays. I scheduled 3-4 shifts every other weekend; so I would work Fri-Mon every other week. This meant I was now available most weekdays, and able to operate on a more business friendly schedule.
Two years later and I could not be happier with my decision to switch to locums. I now work 8 clinical shifts a month, actually enjoy clinical medicine more now since I work less, and still have 22-23 days a month to do whatever else I want. I choose to spend most of that time on my side gig, with my family and traveling. If you ever considered starting your own company or pursuing that other hobby, why not try locums? As time passes, the energy to pursue other interests becomes harder to find. Life is short, and most will never truly have the opportunity to follow their passion. As locum physicians, we have the unique ability to still practice medicine, while at the same time pursue other interests we always fantasized about. The words of Steve Jobs from his famous 2005 commencement speech still ring in my head,
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”