Where There’s a Need There’s a Locum. Happy National Locum Tenens Week!

August 12, 2020 | Clinician Stories

It’s 2 am, and a mentor supervises a group of advance practice providers in New Mexico. On an otherwise unremarkable day, a hospitalist saves a life in rural Ohio. Last year, a soldier accepted a new job as a medical director in Nevada. What’s hard to believe is … these scenarios all describe the same man. And that only covers a fraction of his CV over the last five years.

We’re in the middle of National Locum Tenens Week, and we’re celebrating incredible providers like the indefatigable Dr. Kelly Lawrence. Here’s to you!

With seven state licenses under his belt, one can never guess where Dr. Lawrence will pop up next. Not even he knows for sure. He gets dozens of job notifications a day and if there’s a direct flight from his home in Michigan, he’ll consider a shift or two. “I don’t really have a shortage of where to work,” he says with a laugh.

“I’ve noticed that if people like you and want to keep you around, they give you a lot of deference,” he points out. His advice for other providers? Don’t promise a full schedule. Take a few shifts and see how it goes. And don’t let the first offer determine your interest. “Make yourself indispensable,” he encourages. “Then facilities are willing to work with you on schedule and pay. You can work locums for three or four months and make the same as a staff job for twelve months.”

Dr. Lawrence initially researched locum tenens work while still an active duty member of the Air Force. He was attracted by the freedom of locum life. “I’m not owned by the hospital,” he explains. “If I don’t like the facility, I can bounce quickly.”

That flexibility has been perfect with young kids at home. This year, Dr. Lawrence wanted to take his family on a 3-month vacation to Australia and the Netherlands, but COVID-19 thwarted those plans. The silver lining to the stay-at-home orders is they’ve given him a chance to do what he does best, put his patients first.

He likes to focus on rural communities where he can provide the underserved with access to medical care. As a bonus, he gets to work independently in these areas. “I get to work the way I want,” he explains. “The hospital is mine to manage.”

That autonomy leads to an intriguing paradox regarding the nature of locum work. “Medicine is very collaborative,” Dr. Lawrence believes. “I’ve made friends in all kinds of specialties. Which is good because I can text them and say, ‘Hey, I have this patient. What would you do in this case?’”

Being a team player and doing what’s best for the patient is what everything ultimately comes down to for the good doctor.

“I mean, why do medicine?” he asks. “The real motivation for me is to provide good care to those who need it most.”

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