Possible Cons of Locum Hospitalist Jobs

Posted on: July 28, 2022

written by

Karina Kagramanov

In our last article, we broke down just some of the many advantages of working in locum hospitalist positions as opposed to traditional employment. Locum providers reap the benefits of not only extending their professional and life experiences as they travel on a flexible schedule, but they do so while simultaneously earning income at a higher salary than a permanent hospitalist. Moreover, locum hospitalists enjoy the ability to take their pick from a consistently overflowing pool of opportunities, which strictly focus on patient care instead of workplace politics.

These advantages and more have convinced increasing numbers of physicians to make the switch away from permanent employment in favor of locum hospitalist work. But regardless of what sparks your interest in locums, it’s also important to consider the cons of the locum lifestyle before officially making the transition.

The Cons of Locum Tenens Hospitalist Work

Working as a Lone Wolf

During the onset of your contact with a new locum agency, one of the first questions that any experienced recruiter will ask you is what your family situation looks like; whether you have a spouse, children, and where your home base is. The reason your recruiter may ask about your home life isn’t simply to get to know you better, it’s because the travel most often required for locum work can be tough on providers who have put down strong roots.

It can be difficult leaving family, friends, and community to travel hundreds of miles away for multiple months at a time. For this reason, many providers choose to stick with a permanent, Monday through Friday gig in their area, and only pick up part time or sporadic locum work when it’s available locally. But for those who are interested in traveling and diving into locums full-time, it is important to realistically self-evaluate your willingness to temporarily say goodbye to your loved ones.

Oftentimes, to mitigate some of the loneliness that comes with traveling for work, locum hospitalists opt to bring along their partner or spouse, the cost of which (depending on the agency and client budget), may or may not be covered as a part of your travel expenses. While the option to bring along company isn’t always in the cards, it is always a possibility to negotiate for shorter-term assignment lengths. After all, sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Tougher Taxes

Becoming a locum hospitalist means complete independence, and along with the benefits of being a free agent, also comes the drawback of increased complexity come tax season.

Permanent, W-2 work offers the convenience of having your federal and state taxes withheld from your paychecks throughout the year, sparing you a headache and hours spent counting up what you owe. Locum hospitalists, however, are considered self-employed, independent contractors. As such, locum providers are responsible for keeping track of all necessary documentation pertaining to their income, and calculating the taxes they owe each year on their own.

Though the bright side of taxes for 1099 contractors is that there are innumerable work-related expenses you can deduct — travel, lodging, education, etc. — deciphering the confusing and constantly changing tax code can still be demanding for even the most organized record-keeper. That being said, it’s always a good idea to be proactive in learning which expenses are deductible, and what documentation you need to save by working with a tax professional or CPA who can advise you through your unique situation.

Inconvenient Insurance

While you can lighten your load during tax season by consulting with a professional, the increased involvement of 1099 taxes is unfortunately not the only pitfall to being an independent contractor.

For many hospitalists on the fence about locum work, one of the biggest appeals to choosing traditional employment is the free health insurance that's provided; and employers certainly utilize the most attractive plans to entice providers into going perm. Locum providers on the other hand, are responsible for finding and paying for their own insurance plans, which, to some, can seem like more effort than it’s worth compared to simply accepting whatever a potential employer is offering.

But permanent providers often find themselves feeling stuck with the same old plan they originally accepted, which may no longer work for their ever-changing circumstances. On the other hand, locum hospitalists have the freedom to choose the best possible fit for them from unlimited health, life, and disability insurance options. Though the health insurance market for contract workers is brimming with a variety of affordable plans, the independence of handpicking an insurance plan solo may be alluring to some, but inadequate to others.

Expecting the Unexpected

In spite of the fact that, as discussed above, the demand for locum tenens hospitalists has never been higher, it is still pertinent to keep in mind that the nature of every locum contract is temporary. Locum hospitalists go where they are needed, and needs are subject to change. The truth of the matter is, you may not always have another assignment consecutively and conveniently arranged to roll straight into after another ends.

Though an uncommon circumstance, it is not unheard of for a locum assignment to come to an unexpected end on short notice. Temporary employers generally maintain the right to change or cancel locum contracts for a variety of reasons ranging from credentialing issues to newfound permanent coverage to fill the need.

It’s always smart to expect the unexpected while on an assignment, but the chief reason that you may find yourself with employment gaps will likely be the specificity of your own preferences pertaining to your job search. Granted, having a constant set of eyes on the locum market increases the chances that one day your recruiter will call to pitch you your dream job. However, the bottom line is that as a locum hospitalist, abundant workflow is directly correlated with your flexibility and openness to travel and work in varied practice settings.

Doing Your Locum Homework

Researching and objectively digging into both the positive and negative aspects of locums ensures that you will not be blindsided if and when you do decide to make the leap, leading to a better overall experience.

Now that you’ve learned all about the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of locum work, you’re more prepared to conduct an honest self-assessment to determine if the positives outweigh the negatives enough to make a career change.

You’re also now likely equipped with more specific questions to help you decide whether becoming a locum hospitalist is the right path for you. To chat more about how locum work can fit into your unique situation, Barton’s skilled recruiters a call today!

Ready to get started as a locum hospitalist? Check out our open hospitalist listings now!

About Karina Kagramanov

As the Content Marketing Copywriter at Barton Associates, Karina conceptualizes and creates engaging written and video content for Barton and its two children companies, Barton Healthcare Staffing and Wellhart. They joined Barton in March of 2021 after graduating from UMass Amherst with Bachelor degrees in Integrated Business & Humanities and Communication. They are currently pursuing their Masters Degree in Digital Marketing at Southern New Hampshire University. In their free time, you can find Karina training at their local boxing gym or learning how to cook a new pasta recipe. 

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