Locum Tenens Eases Retirement Transition for Medical Providers

Retirement planning is an essential part of life for everyone, but it can be a significant challenge for those in the medical field. If doctors aren’t prepared or planning correctly, they can potentially create problems for themselves and their retirement.

In this article, we want to talk about the various pitfalls that can come from retiring from the medical field, as well as how proper planning can alleviate these issues. Most of all, we want to focus on how working as a locum tenens doctor can be an integral part of retirement preparation.

When is the right time to retire?

Unlike most other professions, doctors don’t always work until a given age (i.e., 65) and then retire. Each case is different, and your circumstances will dictate how and when you can stop working. Some doctors will want to retire early, while others will practice medicine long into their golden years. 

Because this decision is a momentous one, it’s crucial to understand all of the various factors that may be in play. Here are some common elements that can influence your decision.


Fortunately, according to a recent study, the percentage of physicians experiencing burnout is lower than it was five years ago. In 2020, the rate is 42 percent, compared to 46 percent in 2015. While that number is promising, it’s still not ideal.

There are many reasons for this problem, including understaffed hospitals and clinics, shortages of physicians, and changes in the health of the general population. Regardless of the cause, the effect can force many doctors to want out long before they’re ready for retirement.


For many physicians, the motivation that keeps them working in the field is that their efforts are helping people. That desire to provide excellent care is a powerful factor and one that cannot be ignored. When confronted with the idea of retirement, it’s critical to understand how fulfillment plays into your work, and whether you’ll be able to maintain it in retirement.

In most cases, retiring cold turkey is not the best choice. Many doctors have trouble adjusting to life outside of the medical field. For that reason, a gradual transition from working to retirement may be the best choice.

Financial planning and security

One issue that plagues many doctors is that they quickly adapt their lifestyle to fit their paycheck. Once the money starts coming in, the urge to spend it becomes much more intense. Unfortunately, this lack of willpower can cost you in the long run. How can you retire when you have so much debt looming over your head, or high living expenses that require a stable income?

Before you can consider retirement, it’s time to sit down and develop a strategy. No matter how old you are or how long you’ve been in practice, it’s never too soon to start planning. Typically, you’ll want to address the following elements:

  • How much money you’ll need for retirement
  • How much you can save from now until then
  • Whether you can pay off debt (i.e., mortgage) before retiring
  • Potential lifestyle adjustments after retirement (i.e., traveling, downsizing, etc.)

How locum tenens work can make retirement easier

Thankfully, there is an option that can address all of these issues at once – locum tenens work. Rather than being on the payroll, locum tenens doctors fill in as needed for a length of time.

While becoming a locum tenens physician can come with a variety of challenges, it’s a versatile strategy that can help doctors prepare for retirement. According to a 2018 Physicians Foundation Survey, approximately 10% of older doctors indicate they will work part-time in the next one to three years.

Avoid burnout by slowing down

When you’re on staff at a clinic or hospital, or you’re running your own practice, the hours can be grueling. Because you’re in such high demand, you don’t get a lot of breathing room. Going at such a breakneck pace for so long will only lead to burnout and exhaustion. 

When working as a locum tenens physician, you get to take breaks as you see fit. Because you’re not a full-time employee, you dictate how and when you work. So, if you start to get burnt out after a few months, you can take two or three weeks off to vacation and compose yourself. 

Simply put, burnout isn’t a problem because you can walk away whenever your schedule is getting too overwhelming.

Stay fulfilled by working a lighter schedule

As we mentioned, many doctors can have a hard time transitioning from working full-time to retirement. Hobbies like golf and traveling can only provide so much fulfillment. After a while, you may find yourself yearning for the days of helping patients and responding to crises.

To alleviate this problem, taking on locum tenens work can provide that fulfillment without commitment. Even better, you can still work while retired, meaning that you get the best of both worlds. Travel for a while to enjoy your golden years, and then practice for a few months to refresh your spirit and rekindle your love of medicine.

Many doctors can keep this up throughout retirement, or you may decide to taper off slowly until you no longer practice at all. Think of it as a semi-retirement before you’re ready to commit to the real thing.

Avoid financial insecurity with locum tenens work

The primary benefit of using locum tenens as a means to retire more gradually is that you can get both fulfillment and a paycheck. Yes, you won’t be earning the same money you did as a full-time practitioner, but it is an added income to cushion your savings and retirement accounts.

When talking with a financial advisor, you can discuss how part-time medical work can help you adjust your long-term retirement strategy. For example, perhaps you can “retire” from full-time work sooner than you anticipated, as long as you pick up shifts regularly.

Also, becoming a locum tenens physician can help you to better manage your nest egg. If you need to let some accounts sit for a few more years to accrue interest, you can use your locum earnings to cover living expenses. If you want to take an extra trip in a given year without dipping into an IRA, you can work a few additional shifts instead. 

Overall, locum tenens work gives you a lot more flexibility and control over your life. Retirement planning is much less overwhelming when you don’t have to get everything finalized by a certain age.

Finding locum tenens work

At TinkBird Healthcare Staffing, we are here to help with all your placement needs and questions. Whether you are just starting your medical journey or looking to ease into retirement, we can help you find the position that meets your unique needs. Contact us to get started.

Recent Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search

COVID-19 UpdateHere, the recruitment experts at TinkBird Healthcare Staffing share a few tips on how to be a successful locum tenens provider.