Back Living Life and Saving Lives: What Locum Tenens Is All About

Living Life and Saving Lives: What Locum Tenens Is All About

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

Physicians work locum tenens assignments for a variety of reasons, from earning extra money or gaining experience to simply wanting to travel and practice someplace new. Yet, no matter the motives, locum physicians remain determined to provide the best care possible to patients. 

“I like finding ways to help people be healthier versions of themselves,” said Elizabeth Lee Mizelle, DO. “I have always wanted to be a doctor, since I was five years old. I have always wanted to make people feel better.”

A family medicine physician, Mizelle has worked locum tenens on and off for about four years. She is currently on an assignment in Texas with Locum Leaders.

“I like the locum lifestyle; it provides me with a lot of work–life balance and flexibility,” Mizelle said. “I can manage when I want to work and when I don’t work.”

Combining locum assignments with a consulting business

Mizelle balances her locum tenens schedule with public speaking about health and wellness topics at schools, churches and other organizations across the country. She also offers wellness consultations and lifestyle plans through The Health Parlor, a consulting business she set up to help people make healthier choices and enhance their happiness.

“I focus solely on optimizing clients’ health to help prevent or reverse their chronic diseases like obesity, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol,” she said.

Mizelle, originally from New York, graduated from osteopathic medical school in Virginia and completed her residency in the Bronx, New York, where she was a chief family medicine resident. She met her husband in Texas and stayed there. She accepts locum tenens positions in Texas primarily, and occasionally in North Carolina to visit family. 

“I try to stay home in Houston, because we are still newlyweds,” she said. “I am usually able to find work close to where I live.”

She evaluates the details of each locum assignment, and lets her recruiter know if it is one she wants to pursue. After each locum interview, she also has the opportunity to say yes or know if she is offered the job.

Wherever Mizelle accepts an assignment, she is dedicated to delivering the best care possible, and appreciates the chance make a difference in people’s lives.

Saving lives: Just a day in the life of a locum family physician

At a recent clinic assignment, Mizelle performed her usual thorough history and physical and picked up on the root cause of an athletic young man’s subtle symptoms. She ordered the appropriate diagnostics. When the laboratory results came back after hours, the on-call physician sent an ambulance to the patient’s home, and he was treated at a local hospital, saving his life.

“We were able to catch it, and he is being treated at an amazing facility,” she said. “I played a small part in this. I did my basic family medicine routine, listened to the patient, went with my gut instinct and tried to practice good medicine.”

Mizelle credits her clinical education and intuition with helping her make good decisions. Regardless of her employment status, Mizelle gives her all to help her patients.

The evidence concurs: Locums provide quality care

A study in Journal of the American Medical Association supports the belief that locum tenens physicians are just as effective at saving lives as other physicians. The 2017 study compared 30-day mortality rates among patients treated by locum tenens physicians and physicians not working locum tenens and found no significant differences in death rates. 

“It’s always about taking care of the patient,” Mizelle said. “I like using my hands to make people feel better. I feel I have an innate gift that I can pick up on things and explain things better.”

Often, that includes teaching patients and families about their own health and facilitating change, which she finds rewarding.

“One of my greatest passions now in medicine is the focus on practicing lifestyle medicine, preventing and reversing chronic diseases through lifestyle changes,” Mizelle concluded.

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LOCUM LEADERS is seeking physicians and advanced practice providers to provide excellent patient care, for part-time or full-time locum tenens assignments across the U.S.