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October 30, 2017
June 30, 2022

A career in medicine isn't a sprint; it's a marathon. Physicians relentlessly push through an undergraduate degree, medical school, an internship, and residency in order to cross the finish line. Following residency, it's time for new doctors to catch their breath and give thoughtful consideration to the next step in their careers.

Urgent care locum tenens work is a practical post-residency consideration. While the term "urgent care center" may engender a mental picture of a small strip-mall clinic, in reality, the urgent care landscape is much more diverse. Today, hospitals and medical groups own urgent care clinics, retailers incorporate clinics into their stores, and telehealth and app-based house-call services are becoming routine.

The combination of legislative reform and increased patient cost burden led to the consumerization of healthcare that fueled the urgent care industry. Urgent care mergers and acquisitions peaked in 2015, yet the number of buyers continues to increase. Today, there are more than 7,400 urgent care centers in the United States. Six corporations own 90 percent of retail clinics, and 10 organizations own close to 1,100 urgent care centers.

Many of those urgent care facilities utilize locum tenens staffing, which presents an ideal opportunity to post-residency physicians who are considering their options prior to committing to a permanent position, taking their board exams, or applying for a fellowship. There are many advantages to locum tenens work, including:

1. Mentoring and networking

In an urgent care setting, it's common for post-residency physicians to work alongside veteran emergency physicians. That propinquity lays the foundation for valuable networking, as well as the opportunity to augment existing knowledge and training.

2. Focusing on patients

Due to the consumerization of healthcare, most successful urgent care facilities follow a retail business model that informs everything from choosing physical locations to community engagement initiatives. Their core value is customer satisfaction, meaning that physicians are able to practice patient-centered care. Not only is this professionally rewarding, but having a demonstrated ability to do so is valuable to potential employers.

3. Exploring options

Urgent care locum tenens work enables post-residency physicians to experience a variety of settings, a variety of people, and even a variety of geographic locations. All of these factors are considerations when weighing options for a permanent position. Taking the time to determine which people, places, and facilities are most appealing lays the groundwork for an evidence-based decision.

4. Ensuring flexibility

Following the 80-hour workweeks endured by residents, physicians often welcome the flexibility of urgent care locum tenens work. Because many urgent care centers are open extended hours or even 24/7, physicians enjoy scheduling options including part-time or full-time work. Seasonal locum tenens work, such as during cold and flu season or during the fall for school sports physicals, is also an option. By choosing where to work and how long to work, locum tenens physicians also avoid burnout.

5. Jump-starting student loan repayment

The Association of American Medical Colleges found that close to 74 percent of new medical school graduates have an average of $190,000 in student loans. The near-immediate placement and earning potential associated with urgent care locum tenens work gives new physicians a jump-start in repaying student loans, which in turn provides breathing room to find the right fit in a permanent position.

6. Boosting the CV

It's difficult for a post-residency physician's curriculum vitae to stand out from the crowd. Urgent care locum tenens work adds depth and breadth to a CV by identifying diversity in patient populations, conditions diagnosed and treated, and areas served. This range of experience makes candidates more attractive to selection committees.

Over the past decade, the urgent care industry has grown exponentially and shows no sign of slowing. There is a substantial market for urgent care locum tenens physicians, whether in a clinic or a retail location, a rural or urban locale, or as an adjunct to a hospital or an urgent care franchise. Locum tenens work is an ideal opportunity for post-residency physicians who wish to earn money, gain experience, and make connections while considering their next step.