Ask any experienced locum tenens clinician and you will probably hear that locum work is not right for everyone. Experienced locums are likely to tell you that full-time locum tenens requires a certain kind of temperament. Such advice leads us to the following question: is there a ‘right’ temperament required for this sort of work?
‘Right’ may be too strong a term. However, it is hard to argue against the thought that people with certain kinds of temperaments do better than others. Locum tenens is no different than any other kind of work in that regard. Some people do better in the locum environment than others.
So what does it take? As a general rule, the most successful clinicians who make locum tenens a lifelong career exhibit the following character traits:
1. They Are Flexible
A clinician can be an expert planner and still discover that all of his plans are of no value when he arrives at the next assignment. The truth of the matter is that flexibility is part of the game when you practice locum tenens. You never really know what you are going to get until you arrive on site. That is just the way it is.
Of course, this says nothing of basic things like travel. A doctor could plan to take the red-eye and arrive just in time to start that first shift only to find that the flight has been canceled due to weather. Now what? Let’s hope the doctor is flexible.
2. They Work Well with Others
It used to be that elementary school teachers attached comments to student report cards letting parents know whether or not their children worked well with others. Who knows if they do that anymore, but the principle certainly applies to locum work. To be a successful locum, you have to be able to work with all sorts of people.
Some people are extremely easy to get along with. Others, not so much. Locums do not have the luxury of getting to develop long-term relationships with their coworkers. They are only around temporarily and, as such, have to fit in with everyone else.
3. They Are Willing to Learn
If there is one thing a clinician learns quickly on the locum tenens trail it is that she doesn’t know everything. Even here in the United States, practicing medicine can vary widely from one location to the next. The way they do things in Los Angeles may be remarkably different from the way things are done in Fargo.
Successful locums are willing to learn. They take every new assignment as another opportunity to learn and grow. And the more they learn, the more they understand just how little science really knows about humanity. It can be a humbling experience.
4. They Are Adventurous
Locum tenens clinicians sometimes describe their experiences as adventures. And why not? It takes an adventurous spirit to pack up and move multiple times per year. A sense of adventure goes a long way toward making the locum lifestyle enjoyable as well.
That sense of adventure applies across the board. It applies to traveling, meeting new coworkers, learning how a facility operates, and even meeting and treating patients with an entirely different cultural mindset. There is no such thing as status quo when you’re working locum assignments.
Is there a ‘right’ temperament for locum tenens work? Technically, no. But the clinician who naturally possesses a few core characteristics will find locum tenens work more enjoyable and rewarding. That clinician will be less frustrated by the negative aspects of his chosen working style.