Cesar Jara, MD, FSCAI, FACC, shares how locum tenens helped him to keep working during one of the most difficult times in his life — while he was caring for his daughter Joanna.
As physicians we have a lot of experience taking care of our patients. However, nothing prepares us when illness hits home, either an ailing parent or grandparent, a sick spouse, or worse — a severe illness in a child. We grow apparently immune to the pain and suffering we witness on a daily basis, unaware of the immense physical, emotional, and economical toll can take in a caregiver.
We are not immune
Physicians and their families are not immune to sickness. There are situations that will require a complete shift of our focus and time. At some point, we will all experience the burden of a relative with a severe illness: a parent with dementia still living at home with his/her spouse and not ready to be institutionalized; a spouse with a chronic debilitating illness to the point it requires assistance with ADLs; or a child with cancer undergoing months — if not years — of chemotherapy, surgeries, and radiation.
To the despair we’ll feel are the added demands of a busy medical practice and the incompatibility of continuing a full-time job. Locum tenens provides an incredible option to fulfill primarily our caretaker duties and continue practicing with a flexible schedule.
Locum tenens: The flexible option
Regardless of private or employee status, there are very few options for physicians to continue working a reduced schedule, considering the intense economical demands of private practice and employers who will likely recommend a leave of absence.
Locum tenens on the other hand allows a physician to practice at his or her own pace: weekends, every other week, every 2 weeks, etc. The ability to find a fit is within the realm of possible. Starting now with a locums job will help you to understand and navigate the system as well as create a network you can use in the future.
Maintaining an income
Certainly, there are a lot of strategies to keep a safeguard for unforeseen circumstances in the financial world. However, locum tenens allows you to maintain a continuous stream of income, especially when the precise reason to leave a demanding full-time job requires also more expenses: help at home not paid by insurance to take care of an elderly parent, medical treatments, or travel to specialized centers for a second opinion or unique medical care not available locally.
Furthermore, a locum tenens physician is an independent contractor with a 1099 tax report at the end of the year, with several associated expenses being tax deductible. Consult with your personal accountant for more specific information and options.
Finding the right locums advisor
There are multiple locum tenens companies, and most physicians have received plenty of emails and phone calls to the point it’s confusing to know which one is best. Choosing the right company requires finding one that can offer multiple options nationwide and has an excellent support team to find the right fit and help with credentialing, traveling, lodging, schedule, etc. I had the opportunity to work with multiple companies, and I chose Weatherby for all the above reasons, as well as an important factor that’s harder to find: an advisor that really cares about your needs, and spends time getting to know you, so can really find a facility you’ll more likely enjoy working at.
My personal experience
I personally had to endure a grueling year of cancer treatment with my daughter, Joanna, with trips to specialized cancer centers and extra expenses. The cancer treatments she received required inpatient care for weeks at a time, and we stayed with her away from home for months. I took turns taking care of her with my wife, who was able to continue a part-time job. I left a private practice and just worked locums sporadically.
Thanks to a relationship I had already created with a facility, St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, Wisconsin, I was able to work in a very flexible schedule. This allowed me to keep a minimum number of procedures so I could reapply later for credentialing. All this could have not been possible without my Weatherby advisor, Stefanie Thalmann, who found the right facility a year before, where they really needed my skills, had the same philosophy and ethics of work, and I could perform my procedures.
Sadly, Joanna passed with osteosarcoma on November 26, 2019. Looking back, locum tenens with Weatherby helped me to be a caring father until the end, and at the same time, have the chance to rebuild my professional life afterwards.
Cesar Jara, MD, FSCAI, FACC, is an interventional cardiologist with AdventHealth Medical Group in Florida. He joined them in August 2020 and started a brand new TAVR program at AdventHealth Waterman Hospital. He practices in the AdventHealth Orlando region.
His daughter Joanna Jara graduated from college at University of Miami 2019, and was going to pursue a career in medicine. She was beloved there, especially at the radio station WVUM, visit her page at https://www.wvum.org/joanna.