10 Ways to Know if Being a Locum is Right for You

Kristen Campbell
Jun. 19, 2020
7-minute read

10 Ways to Know if Being a Locum is Right for You

Whether you’re a new doctor or you’ve been practicing for many years, you might have started thinking about starting or joining a practice as a locum.

If you were to define locum tenens, you’d describe a doctor who substitutes for other doctors while they take leave, have patient overflow, or are on vacation. But what exactly does ‘locum tenens’ mean? In English Locum tenens’ literally means ‘place holder’.  As a locum physician, who holds the place of another physician, you need to be  flexible, adaptable  and enjoy change.  Locums can expect  to cover the position anywhere from a day to six months or a year. 

Having locum coverage is important for healthcare administrators and medical practice administrators for several reasons. Doctors who operate their own practice can use locums to cover for them if they are away on vacation, maternity, or research leave. Hospital administrators use locums to fill gaps in coverage caused by retirement, patient overflow, or staff shortages.

For doctors, there are plenty of reasons to choose locum physician work

  • flexible working hours
  • the ability to move around
  • short term work assignments all benefit your career in different ways.

If you’re thinking that locuming  might work for you, here are 10 reasons you could be a perfect fit. 

1. You Want More Work/Life Balance

Choice and flexibility define locum doctor positions. As a locum physician, you have the freedom to choose your own schedule – if you want to book time off, work only on weekends, or try out a schedule that works around school drop off times. Being a locum can provide more flexibility with less of a time investment than a regular practice.  This can make it easier for you to schedule your work around the rest of your life and not the other way around.

2. You Want Job Stability

Locum doctors are in high demand, so if you’re looking for a position with job security, look no further. Part of the locum doctor definition is that you’re willing to substitute for other doctors. This means that there is no shortage of openings – no matter what your specialization is, there will always be doctors retiring, going on leave, or unable to provide coverage for the number of patients they have.

Locum work is always be in demand, and some specializations especially so – with an aging population, many specializations are seeing physicians retire in large numbers, and rely on locums to fill the gap.  Assignments as a locum could be either short or long term, but if you don’t mind moving around, you can always find work.  Locum doctors are always needed, whether in your specialization or outside of it, and thanks to Canada’s billing system the pay rate is often the same as you would earn elsewhere, sometimes even higher.

Essentially, having locum work as part of your practice, ensures you’ll always have income as there are plenty of openings for locum doctors, and having regular work as a locum can supplement and stabilize your income, even if you are already part of a medical practice. You can pick up extra shifts as needed.

3. You’re Just Getting Started

Many locums are students who are just out of medical school, and who might use locum practice outside of their regular practice to earn extra money on evenings or weekends. This is a great strategy if you’re looking to pay off student loans – you can put the additional income you earn towards your loan repayment, claim more of your student tax deductions on your income at the end of the year, and even take advantage of one of the short term remote work programs that earn you government rebates on your income. 

Even if you’re not looking to supplement your income, locum work is a great idea for doctors who are fresh out of medical school. The variety of the work exposes you to a wide range of office types and patient situations that you wouldn’t see otherwise, and saves you from signing a long contract to a position you don’t enjoy.

4. You’re Not Sure What Kind of Practice You Want

Being a locum allows you to experience a wide variety of patient environments, situations, and medical issues. While the training you receive in your specialization will prepare you to work in any situation, the actual experience you might have of working in different positions will be limited if you remain in one practice for most of your career. If you want to branch out but you’re not sure how, locum work is a great way to ease into a new form of practice. A locum doctor might work in a remote area out of one room, or supervise medical students in a larger practice. 

Your experience as a locum could give you some indication of what kind of practice you want to work for or operate in, as well as  showing you the areas that you don’t like. Locum work could show you whether you prefer a smaller office, a large hospital administration setting, or a bustling family practice.

5. You’re Nearing Retirement

While locum work is a great idea for anyone at the beginning of their medical career, it’s also great for those at the end of their career. For those who are stepping back from their medical studies the key benefit of being a locum is being able to take it easy, and to really pick the gigs you’d like to do. Without the stressful demands of regular practice, doctors who are looking to retire soon or who have already retired can keep their skills sharp and earn some extra money working as a locum.

6. You Want to Travel

Besides the flexibility, another big benefit that locum work offers is the ability to take your practice anywhere. From coast to coast or even internationally, your work as a locum allows you to live without borders, all while earning a comfortable income! Keep in mind international regulations governing medical doctors and their credentialing requirements – you’ll need to meet these requirements, as well as make sure any Visa issues are cleared up before you go. 

Once this is done, though, the world is your oyster! Canadian doctors are in high demand in Commonwealth countries, including England, New Zealand, and Australia. You can choose either short or long term assignments, plan vacations, or arrange your travel schedule so that you never have to shovel snow again!

7. You Want to See a Broader Network of Patients

While you might be happy working in your primary care practice, if you specialize in a certain area or live in a very segregated neighborhood you might find yourself always seeing the same kinds of patient or medical scenario. Working as a locum physician allows you to branch out to areas that you wouldn’t normally consider, which could round out your medical practice and expose you to valuable information.

For example, a surgeon in a rural area is likely to deal with a very different subset of patients then one in a very specialized hospital – while surgical specialities are more segregated in city centres, surgeons in rural areas are expected to do work on all areas of the body. This could end up making you a more well rounded physician, especially early on in your career.

8. You Want to Start Your Own Practice

If you’re in the process of starting your own practice, locum work is a great idea for a couple of reasons. First, it allows you to earn extra money in the evenings and weekends, which you can save to reduce the loans you will have to take on as part of your startup capital, overhead expenses, or salaries. The second reason that this is a good idea is that locum work allows you to see how other practice are set up – if you’re working out of somewhere you really enjoy, you might learn how they hired staff, the systems and processes they used, and what they do on a daily basis to keep things running smoothly.

9. You’re Job Hunting

Being a locum doctor in a particular practice can make it easier to build a network of physicians who will bring you into their practice. Working as a locum will allow you to get to know other doctors and staff, develop rapport with the patients, and see if you like the atmosphere in the office before you make your decision. Even if the practice doesn’t have openings, locum work will allow you to build a network of colleagues that is far broader than if you had stayed in your primary practice.

10. You Want More Freedom

‘Temporary’ is part of the locum tenens definition on Wikipedia – and the short term nature of the role means there are plenty of different ways to work! As a locum, you can travel, work shorter hours, or change your work life balance. The work of a locum is always changing and keeps you on your toes – so you can be certain that you’ll never be bored! The best part is that if you don’t like a certain assignment, you don’t need to stay past the agreed upon time frame. This means you’ll never be in a position of being stuck somewhere you don’t enjoy. If you find yourself craving something different, locum work could give you the freedom you’re looking for.


Now that you know more about the benefits of locum work, it’s time to start thinking about how it can benefit you. Whether it’s a flexible work-life balance, a way to pay down your student loans, or a great place to retire, locum work is a great way to bring more options into your medical career.

Additional Reading

Women in Medicine Feature: Q&A With Dr. Nour Khatib
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Dr. Nour Khatib left medical school for a finance career, but a persistent calling encouraged her to return years later and become an emergency physician.

Kristen Campbell
Kristen Campbell is a content writer with experience writing for technology, real estate, healthcare, and higher education. She holds a BA from McMaster University and a B-Comm. from the University of Calgary, and is passionate about creating content that’s both educational and engaging.
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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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