Locum tenens is the temporary replacement of a medical provider by another, and most locum providers take the quick nature of these assignments to heart. For some, short stints allow an escape from office politics, while others may just want to see a new state every six months. Dr. D. Edwards is different from other locum tenens providers—in fact, he’s extended his assignment at the same facility 23 times since 2016, where he has been conducting home visits for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis in Texas and several other adjoining states.
Before becoming a locum provider, Edwards practiced family medicine at a brick-and-mortar location in northern Texas. He sold his practice after 20 years, entering what he called the “semi-retirement” stage.
After entering his “semi-retirement,” Edwards was bombarded by recruiters, saying most that reach out “just hustle to find somebody to fill a spot. And as soon as they find out you’re not readily available, they just kind of want to drop you and move on to the next one.”
Edwards wasn’t planning on taking up another job because he was “not really interested in getting back into a clinical practice, or doing urgent care, or seeing 30 patients in a day.”
However, a call from his Barton Associates recruiter changed everything. Instead of feeling rushed, or pushed into exploring opportunities, Edwards said the conversation with Barton was “really friendly and very low pressure. I laid down my parameters, that if I did any work it had to be very flexible in schedule—it had to be something a little bit different or offbeat.”
Edwards’ recruiter took this into account, and then came back pitching his current assignment, where he observes and monitors patient vital signs after they take the first dose of a multiple sclerosis treatment.
Even after taking the assignment, Edwards wasn’t convinced he’d stick around for long. However, the job appealed to him more than he thought, noting it was “low stress and interesting work.”
Edwards often makes trips hundreds of miles long in order to reach these patients.
“Texas is a big state so that can mean driving 600 miles to a patient from where I live,” he said. “I started going all over, and the year before COVID, I think I became the busiest person in the US doing those home visits. I did roughly 10% of the US visits for that company that year, and I traveled around 30,000 miles.
“I actually enjoy the road trips,” Edwards continued. “I don’t fly around because I stay within driving distance, but for me those are getaways to see new areas of the state or the region and meet new people in different places. So, for me, that’s been kind of a plus, rather than a negative. I don’t do complicated travel that requires airlines and rent-a-cars and that kind of thing.”
When it comes to his decision on whether to extend or not at his current assignment each time, Edwards says, “It’s been kind of a no-brainer. It’s so seamless that I’ve even forgotten we had to do it from time to time.”
The process of extending has become so simple that Edwards’ recruiter for the last two years, Aleksa Thomas of the Worcester office, asks him whether he’d like to extend his assignment. He’s said yes every time.
Edwards said he’s often met with gratitude when he arrives at the homes of patients.
“Like everything else in life, you can’t please 100% of everybody,” he said. “But 99% of the time, it’s a very positive encounter. A lot of times, the people are surprised that I’m actually a doctor that’s coming out to see them because, that’s kind of an unusual thing: for a doctor to come to your house and stay there all day.”
Edwards said a lot of patients are also under the impression that he’s a local doctor, or has other appointments to get to on his trip, when in reality he’s traveled all that way just for them.
“I think that when they add all that up, they’re pretty appreciative,” he said. “A lot of effort and resources have gone into making their visit as easy on them as it can be, because otherwise, they would have to go to a clinic or a hospital and stay there all day for the same service. This way, they get to stay at their own home.”
As long as assignments stay frequent enough, Edwards says he’d be happy to extend again.
“As long as it’s still viable, I’d be very happy to keep doing it,” he said.