As a family doctor, you’re lucky to be part of one of the most in-demand specializations for locum work. Family doctors are always needed as they are often a patient’s first resource for any medical issues that they may have, and their general knowledge base makes them useful in a wide variety of medical situations. Because of this, family physician locums have a whole world of opportunities to choose from – literally! Here are some key insights about the salary you can earn as a locum tenens physician around the country and across the globe.
1. Working in Canada
Depending on your specialty and where you want to live, there are locum opportunities in Canada that are perfect for your employment situation. Keep in mind that the average salary for a family physician locum will be consistent with the average family doctor salary in Canada, which ranges from $217,000 in BC to $309,000 in Ontario, and there are some locum positions – like those in more remote areas of the country – that will pay you more.
Whether or not you’re interested in these opportunities will depend on why you’re choosing locum work in the first place. If salary is your main concern, it may be worthwhile to consider programs like the Rural Family Medicine Locum Program in Ontario, the Rural Medicine Locum Program in Alberta, or the Rural GP Locum Program in BC. These programs pay higher salaries to family physician locums in order to incentivize them to join practices in rural or underserved communities, with the Alberta locum program guaranteeing $1000 per day for family physician locums.
Salary will also vary based on the position you take on – if you’re taking over for a family doctor without much notice, the clinic might be willing to pay you a premium above your billing amount.
Why are you choosing locum work? If you’re looking to make extra money and already have a full-time practice, choosing a locum role for evenings and weekends will help you earn extra money while also sticking close to home. If you’re considering locum work for the flexibility or because you have a new family, don’t be afraid to branch out! There are plenty of locum tenens physician positions across the country that welcome new doctors, and many of these will be adaptable to your specific needs. Looking to retire? Choosing a position in a scenic location – like by the mountains of Alberta, the coast of BC, or the lakes in Ontario – could be a great opportunity to relax and enjoy the end of your career while still keeping your skills sharp.
Teaching and Learning
One of the best parts of being a locum is the wealth of new experiences available to you for seeing new practices, new areas of medicine, and new patients. If you’re interested in moving further up in your field – perhaps in an administrative role, or into starting your own practice – it’s a good idea to plan your locum positions accordingly. Locum roles will allow you to get a feel for a new practice or help you get your foot in the door in a larger hospital or clinical setting.
Having more flexible hours is likely one of the reasons you chose family practice – and locum work gives you the best of these opportunities! Working as a locum means there are plenty of opportunities that will work with your schedule, but you’ll need to balance them with your expectations for salary.
2. Working in the US
While family doctors working in the US can earn a higher annual salary than they can in Canada, be careful to consider the additional cost of administering your practice – while family physician locums might bill higher amounts per service, practices in the United States also have to contend with a higher administrative workload, which might mean more staff and costlier overhead. As a locum tenens physician, you won’t have to worry about these concerns directly, and so taking a short term or contract position across the border could be financially lucrative for you. Family doctor salary in the US is $231,000 on average, although this varies depending on the state. In the US, the average family doctor with their own practice earns $263,000 and the average family doctor in an employment setting earns $218,000.
Medical practices in the United States have a higher amount of administrative workload, which means more overhead and more paperwork for physicians. Unlike in Canada, physicians in the US must work with healthcare providers and individual patients to bill out their services, and handle their own collections, spending an average of 10-20 hours a week on administration alone. Locum tenens physicians working in US practices will be impacted by these extra expenses in terms of time commitments, salary expectations, and staffing concerns.
Locum tenens physicians working in the US will need to keep track of the number of days they are outside of Canada in order to deal with tax regulations back home. Locum tenens physicians staying outside of Canada for longer than a year should make sure to make arrangements so they are not double taxed on the worldwide income that they earn from their locum work.
Locum tenens physicians should get assistance from their employment agency, the doctor planning on hiring them, or an independent form of assistance when filling out their Visa and sponsorship documents to ensure that locum work is part of an approved position and that you will be able to stay in the country legally for the full duration of your work term.
3. Working Abroad
For locum tenens physicians working abroad, the world is your oyster! There are plenty of countries looking to hire family doctors from Canada, including countries in Europe and places like Australia and New Zealand. If you’re thinking of working abroad, make sure your credentials are up to date, and work with a locum agency or employer to assist you in jumping through any immigration hurdles. The average locum family doctor salary abroad will vary considerably depending on where you hope to work, however, the average family doctor salary in England is $122,000, the average family doctor salary in Germany is $173,000, and the average family doctor salary in France is $102,000. Because of this, locum positions in the UK and some areas abroad typically pay less than positions in the US.
Language and Culture
There might be more differences than you think in terms of how other countries practice healthcare. Locum tenens physicians looking to work abroad should be familiar with the area they hope to work, and make sure that they are comfortable with the language, social customs, and expectations of doctors in the area. Family doctors will be especially impacted by these different cultural norms – since you’ll be spending a lot of time working with patients, as opposed to being in a surgery bay or operating room, you have to be especially intuitive when it comes to the customs and expectations of the country where you work.
Like working in the US, family physicians looking to work abroad will need to work with your employer, an employment agency, or other independent resource in order to make sure that you will be able to enter the country and remain there for the duration of your work term.
The cost of living abroad might be significantly different from the cost of living in Canada – and you definitely want to check on this beforehand to avoid any unpleasant surprises! Get a good idea of employment tax rates, the cost of rent, and the cost of other living expenses, like groceries, before you leave. As a family doctor, you will have more work-life balance then other professions, which means it’s a good idea to make sure you can enjoy your stay!
No matter where you choose to work, being a family physician locum is a fantastic opportunity to help patients, earn a steady income, and have all the job flexibility you need. Happy job hunting! If you want to learn all the ins and outs of locuming check out our Ultimate Locum Guide.