If you commit to a locum tenens gig for 6-12 months then you might have your traveling and housing costs covered. But if you are planning on working for a few months, the cost of locum tenens work can be ridiculous. Maybe even not worth it.
I am in my second day working at a Community Health Center in South Central Los Angeles. I already regret the decision because everything is difficult. From traveling here to learning the system to getting the patients what they need.
I am locked into this gig for the next 6 weeks – 45 days. The income from this gig will be in the $20k range, while the cost of this locum tenens gig will be nearly $15k.
I should mention, getting this gig took a lot of effort. For me to pass credentialing despite my medical license troubles wasn’t easy. For this reason, my experience with locums might be very different for someone else who accepts a shorter locums position.
I grew up in West LA, so I know the LA area pretty well. In fact, I used to volunteer at this exact CHC back in college, so I’m familiar with South Central LA.
Because of my medical board stuff, I already had to come to the US. But I had to pay for the tickets to go from Portland to LA. Because of the timing, this ended up being damn pricey.
The logistics of figuring out this temporary relocation was insanely difficult. Seriously, that part alone made this entire experience an emotional wash.
It was impossible finding short-term housing in a safe neighborhood in LA, even on AirBnb. By the time I would research a place no Airbnb, someone would book it out from under me.
The only places which nobody was snagging up were $5,000/mo studios. And they were still a 1-hr commute away from South Central LA.
I ended up finding am 85 sqft apartment in Little Tokyo for $1,500/month. I only get a room with a bed and a sink. The bathroom and kitchen are shared.
And it’s LA so there it’s an orchestra of sirens going by my window. Not to mention the smog. Or the smokers outside of my window. Or the midnight arguments.
I was told by everyone not to walk around the clinic neighborhood. And not to walk outside of my apartment in Little Tokyo, either. Supposedly it’s best to take Uber or rent a car.
Renting a car wasn’t a great option. The problem is that parking is a nightmare around me, assuming my car isn’t stolen. And I have very little desire to drive in LA traffic.
It would cost at least $2,500 to rent a car in LA for the 45 days that I’m here. That’s the cheapest price I could find with adequate insurance coverage.
Uber is fine but it will cost me $20-30 each way and that’s with a 45 min – 1 hour commute. It’s not a long distance, it’s just trafficy as shit. Apparently I’ll be murdered if I bike these 7 miles, shot if I take the bus, and car-jacked if I drive it.
My jail-cell apartment has enough space for me to store some snacks which I’ll probably share with the rats. But I’m not about to pull a Little House on the Prairie and hot-stove it in my room.
So I’ve been eating out so far. Japanese food is pretty good, no complaints. Aged fish and white rice and pink rice balls with sweet bean paste is … delicious.
Of course, I have to brave the streets in order to get food or pay $20 to get food delivered.
I suppose I’ll look to see if I can have groceries delivered. I have a small fridge which apparently has a 700 hp engine the way it sounds all night.
My rock climbing gym costs $30 for a single day pass. $30 … for a day … for one day. Digest that for a minute.
Yes, I could do push ups on top of the bed bugs in my room. Or I could do ab crunches on my scabies infested mattress. But I think I’ll leave that level of spartan exercise for when I end up in jail someday.
Unfortunately, when you have a 1-hr commute there isn’t much time to exercise. So that’s another cost of locum tenens work. Not to mention being sedentary in the clinic and riding Uber.
6. The Stress
I have spent so many hours online finding a place to live and figuring out how to commute and where to eat. I’m emotionally and physically exhausted.
After work I want to come home, watch Netflix, and binge on nasty ass food. That’s what stress does to you.
The rest of the time I walk around the streets with my shaved head wondering if I’m gonna get shanked by someone. Fortunately, I’m skinny as fuck and resemble an AIDS patient more than a gangster. Though I’m not sure how clinically discerning the South Central gangsters are.
My first day back in clinic, I literally shit my pants. Not metaphorically. I’m talking the real deal incontinence. My stomach was destroyed from shitty airport food and food on the go. And apparently my rectum couldn’t tell the difference between a fart and a shit and it took it out on my boxers. RIP self-respect.
7. Losing Stuff
I lost my headphones at one hotel. I had my electric toothbrush stolen at another hotel.
I busted my laptop during my trip and had to buy a replacement. I didn’t have a lot of options and chose an expensive but POS Chromebook.
The Real Cost of Locum Tenens
So it’s everything, the time lost, the stress, the negative effects on health, the financial costs. In my head I will barely break even after taxes.
My income from the clinic is $800/day working 5 days a week. For 6 weeks that’s about $24,000.
I’ll be deducting all of my expenses, sure. I figure somewhere around $8,000. And then I’ll be paying federal income taxes and Cali state income taxes on what’s left over.
All this for 1.5 months of work. I don’t see the value in it. I don’t even see the value in practicing medicine anymore. But we’ll see. Maybe by the end of this experience I’ll be a reborn clinician.
I am definitely spinning this to as positive of an experience in my head as possible. But all I want to do is run the fuck out of this shithole and go back to beautiful Spain.