Pediatric hematologist/oncologist Nicolas Peters, M.D., knew he had found a cure for burnout as soon as he arrived at his very first locums assignment. The exposure to various hospital environments across the nation and the freedom to pursue continuing education opportunities continues to feed his passion for honing his skills as a specialist through locum tenens assignments. We asked Dr. Peters, who loves to share his enthusiasm for Cross Country Locums, formerly Medical Doctor Associates (MDA), with other providers, what motivates him and what he finds rewarding about working with Cross Country Locums. Here’s what he had to share:
How long have you been practicing in your field?
I completed my residency in pediatrics in 2010 and a fellowship in pediatric hematology and oncology in 2013. I have been a pediatric hospitalist since 2015.
How about locums, how long have you been doing that?
I’ve been working locums for almost 3 years.
What led you to consider working temporary, short-term or long-term assignments?
As a pediatric oncologist, I was working long hours without a lot of extra support. I was at a hospital-based practice and felt it was burning me out – between late hours, coming in on weekends, and inefficiencies in how the practice was run. Sometimes I had up to three meetings a day.
I decided I wanted to set my own schedule. I wanted to be able to attend continuing ed conferences to learn new skills and get a deeper education early on. With a “regular job,” I would only get one week of continuing ed per year. But once I decided to work locums, I was able to go to all kinds of conferences. Also, I wanted a taste of freedom, of being my own boss. It was great to not have to attend meetings or be on committees.
What have been the advantages for you in choosing this as a career option?
The biggest advantages have been gaining the experience of working in hospitals in various states and being able to see how different hospitals work. We all provide healthcare, but we all do it a bit differently. I loved learning various techniques. And definitely traveling – I found a beautiful vacation home in Ohio through Airbnb. So for my very first locum assignment, I got to stay on an incredible lake instead of a hotel.
If you were counseling a friend or peer considering working locums, what advice would you share?
I would tell a friend or peer to talk with providers who are working locums, find out which recruiters they like working with, and reach out to those recruiters. Also, be open to opportunities that may not be strictly what you’re looking for. As an example, I may take a job at a location I may not necessarily like, but the pay is good, or perhaps I take a bit lower pay for a place that is closer to friends or family. Be open-minded but try to get a clear idea of what you are looking for because it helps the recruiters.
Regarding travel, don’t forget to check out the local travel opportunities because you can stay nearby. If traveling far, think about how your life changes when you’re on the road – in terms of being away from home.
When you’re on assignment, be flexible. A locum assignment is a great way to learn new things and new methods for treating different conditions. Say to the medical staff, “Tell me how you typically handle this here.”
As for licensure, find out whether you can become part of the Interstate Compact. My recruiter Gigi helped with the licensing, and thank goodness she did! Use your recruiter as a resource. I applied for several state licenses, and she did the leg work and organization.
Additionally, use your recruiter’s guidance when discussing what pay rate to ask for. They are the experts. They know the market. My recruiter helped me get several rate increases. The recruiter gets their foot in the door and asks for a rate increase on your behalf. I don’t have to do any of the negotiating.
What are the biggest misconceptions about working as a locum?
One misconception is the only reason someone works as a locum is that they can’t make it with a salaried job. Also, I think physicians often mistakenly think locum physicians have the same setup as travel nurses. They don’t. Travel nurses usually have 3-month assignments. For locums, we work somewhere for a weekend, two weeks, etc. Then we go home, and the rest of the time is ours.
Another misconception is that it can be isolating. But that’s up to the individual doctor. I made it a point to do things like checking out the local restaurants and getting to know the facility staff. In fact, I met another locum on assignment, and we are best friends now, even though we live in separate states. It’s a great way to make friends and establish connections all over the country.
Also, a lot of physicians have the impression that you have to go far from home to work locums. However, you can stay as close to or as far from home as you’d like.
What is your most fulfilling locums memory to date?
Getting ready for work and walking out of that Airbnb vacation home with a view of the water was so fulfilling. I was in heaven. I was tempted to move up there.
Also, I loved being able to accomplish goals with teams. At the hospital in Ohio, the lactation consultants had been pushing to offer donor breastmilk for mothers. As a physician, bringing it to the other physicians and throwing my support behind it helped establish that program. I love that I was still able to be a part of making improvements. After all, we can only learn new things when we bring new ideas to one another.
In another instance, I was able to share with the staff what I had learned at other hospitals regarding how to treat newborns with low blood sugar – using a glucose gel medicine that would prevent babies from having to have IVs.
What makes a locum assignment appealing to you?
I look for a location that has a lot to offer, plenty of things to do outside of work, and a strong welcoming culture at the hospital.
Has working locums changed your perception of working in healthcare? If so, in what way?
Yes. While I was in training, no one talked to us about working locums. I did not know someone could be a pediatric hospitalist. I love seeing it from this end. I love telling other providers about what I do. I love sharing with people that there are other career options worth considering.
This process has broadened my perception. I realize the issues hospitals face aren’t that unique. They’re all facing the same issues.
I have also kept a private practice as a consultant. I see a few patients a month. I will be doing that full-time as a primary care pediatrician. One of the great features about the practice I’m building is that I will be able to offer care many other pediatricians don’t offer in their offices because of my experience as a locums.
I will probably not get entirely away from locums but will keep it open as an option. My life has changed. I went from being a bachelor to being engaged and getting married. Working locums far away full-time is no longer fitting my lifestyle in the way that it did. Now, I prefer opportunities within driving distance from home or assignments that are not as long. I think it’s great to work locums nearing retirement. It’s great for learning something different and new. It’s a wonderful way to make extra money for the holidays or to make ends meet.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes. I love connecting others with opportunities. When I meet a provider, I want them to know how good a company Cross Country Locums is.
Working locums is a cure for burnout. Now I’m loving life. I’m not burned out at all.
Many thanks to Dr. Peters for sharing his experience. Interested in discovering how a locums assignment can fit into your lifestyle? Learn more about locums opportunities for physicians. We may have the perfect opportunity open right now. Don’t worry – if you don’t see the right opportunity today – sign up for our job alerts and we will keep you posted when new openings become available. Learn more about the benefits of working locums and contact us today if you want to talk to a consultant.