It’s not easy to become a doctor. After completing over a decade of schooling, you emerge with astronomical student loan debt only to confront a crippling workforce shortage that threatens your quality of life. You want to help people. But the increased administrative burden and subsequent burnout threaten your career.
Luckily, Dr. Melina Fernandez Brandt found a way to pursue her passion for medicine and create a healthy work-life balance. Her secret? Practicing locum tenens with Interim Physicians.
Starting in South America
Dr. Fernandez Brandt knew she wanted to become a doctor from a young age. She grew up and studied medicine in Caracas, Venezuela, and worked for a year in a nearby, underserved area before graduating in 2001.
As the political state of her home country began to deteriorate, she decided to move to the United States and join some of her family in New York.
She completed her Internal Medicine residency at an inner-city hospital in NYC and acted as Chief Medical Resident for a year before moving to Philadelphia, and there she found reasons to stay.
Leaving for Locums
After three years as a practicing Hospitalist in a university hospital, Dr. Fernandez Brandt grew frustrated with the hospital politics and administrative burden that cut into time with patients. She wanted to explore other hospitals across the country. That’s when she remembered a particular Latin phrase: locum tenens.
“Years ago, recruiters reached out to me about covering some extra shifts for doctors,” she said. “I was really attracted to the idea of working wherever and whenever I want, but since you can’t do locums with a work visa, I wasn’t a candidate at the time.”
With her green card secured in 2011, Dr. Fernandez Brandt pursued locums and practiced all over Philadelphia, Idaho, South Dakota, Massachusetts, New York, and North Dakota.
“I loved traveling, but my favorite assignment was my very first locums placement in Boise, Idaho—I spent 10 years there! Idaho is just beautiful, and the people were friendly, honest, and outdoorsy. I found everyone to be very open-minded; they embraced diversity because Boise accepts a lot of refugees from all over the world. Not to mention, the Pacific Northwest is just gorgeous,” she smiled.
Finding Roots in Philly
While Dr. Fernandez loved traveling, she eventually met her husband—a fellow physician—in Philadelphia. He became one reason to stay there more permanently (then their two children added a couple more). Thankfully, she was already working with Interim Physicians, and we placed her in a local community hospital that she preferred.
“Today I work in a couple of different small hospitals in Philadelphia,” she explained. “Locums gives me the flexibility of choosing my own schedule and the jobs that are right for me. I get complete control over my shifts, and I can tailor them to my children’s activities. Plus, I never have to request vacation time.”
The family has traveled to Florida and will soon head to the Caribbean to celebrate her aunt’s 70th birthday!
The Right Recruiter
Beyond the flexibility to create your own schedule, Dr. Fernandez Brandt finds locum compensation much fairer than compensation for a permanent position.
“I’d recommend starting locums right out of school. You get exposure to different medical conditions, styles of practice, and different procedures. Plus, graduates are coming out with such exorbitant amounts of student loans these days. Locum tenens is a great way to wash yourself of that debt.”
Although the practice alternative is fantastic, Dr. Fernandez Brandt emphasized the importance of having the right team in your corner.
“I recently referred a colleague to Interim because the team is responsive, efficient, organized, and they get things done. Lauren, my recruiter, always responds within five minutes.” She paused, “But my favorite part is that there’s a sense of family. I’m not just a number. Lauren knows who I am, and we chat all the time. Even the credentialing staff is great, going out of their way to get everything done, even with difficult hospitals.”
Dr. Fernandez Brandt reclaimed her career and found balance with locum tenens.
“Medicine is becoming more challenging today; it’s demanding more and more of us. As physicians, we need to protect ourselves and find something that works for our families. Locums does that. I’ll never take another permanent position again!”