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Combining a Medical Career With Travel: All About Traveling Physicians

Travelers Today       By    David Thompson

Updated: Mar 09, 2022 02:45 PM EST

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Combining a Medical Career With Travel: All About Traveling Physicians

(Photo: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash)

What is a Traveling Physician?

When physicians want more freedom, they tend to open up their own physical practice in their city or town. However, those who want even more freedom and want to touch more lives, take their skills to various parts of the world, or travel within their own country. Traveling physicians can also be thought of as "substitute physicians", filling in for other physicians away on leave.

There are many jobs that allow you to travel, but traveling as a doctor is a very unique career. This type of physician job presents the same challenges as regular physician jobs, but also many new challenges. Here's everything you need to know about traveling physicians.

What Does it Take to Become a Traveling Physician?

First and foremost, traveling for long periods of time for any reason can be mentally stressful if you're not prepared for this type of lifestyle. Constantly traveling means that you're always on the go, and you can go long periods of time without seeing your family and friends. The good news is that if you've already got experience in traveling for long periods of time, this part won't come as such a shock.

In the United States, traveling physicians working within any state must have a license for each state they intend to practice in. The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) makes it easier for U.S. doctors to become licensed to practice in more than one state. Currently, only 11 states do not participate in IMLC:

  1. Alaska

  2. Arkansas

  3. California

  4. Connecticut

  5. Florida

  6. Hawaii

  7. Massachusetts

  8. New Mexico

  9. Oregon

  10. Rhode Island

  11. South Carolina

Of course, the IMLC licensure process doesn't replace the need to complete an undergraduate degree, attend medical school, and complete residency. You must be qualified to be a physician before you can become a traveling physician.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Traveling Physician

Rewards

One of the biggest benefits of being a travel physician is that this is the perfect career for you if you love to travel and you're passionate about medicine. Traveling as a doctor will allow you to fulfill your desire to travel and help people in need all over the world.

Another advantage is that you'll have much more flexibility than if you were working at a local hospital or clinic. You can choose your work setting (e.g., private practices, community centers, etc.) and take time off between jobs. You'll also be classified as an independent contractor, meaning that you're self-employed.

Challenges

Unfortunately, all of this freedom and flexibility means that you may not get consistent work, and all jobs may not pay the same, meaning that your salary can be inconsistent. Also, only emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, and women's health are in high demand for traveling physicians.

Another downside is that you'll have to find and pay for your own insurance coverage- but this is something that all independent contractors have to do. Traveling physicians will need to obtain health insurance, travelers insurance, medical malpractice insurance, disability insurance, and life insurance.

Where to Find Traveling Physician Jobs

One of the best ways to find work as a traveling physician is through a locum staffing agency. Locum tenens is another term for traveling physicians, and a locum staffing agency can help you find more consistent work and how to better understand this unique career path. This type of agency can also help you with licensing, travel arrangements, and housing in addition to finding work as a traveling physician. A locum staffing agency is the best way to go if traveling as a physician is something you want to do long-term.

You can also search for traveling physician work on physician career sites. Traveling physician or locum tenens jobs may be posted on sites like these from time to time, so check often if there's something you're interested in trying. This option is better for those physicians interested in becoming a traveling physician to combine their love of medicine with their love of travel. You can try it out to see if it's something you'll want to do long-term.

Both medicine and traveling should be something that you're truly passionate about when considering becoming a traveling physician. It's a pretty challenging career- as are many careers that involve travel and physician jobs in general- but it is also a very rewarding experience. Fortunately, traditional physician jobs are in such high demand so it's possible to go back to being a regular physician if traveling as a physician doesn't work out.

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