Dr. Jacqueline Brown always kept her nose to the grindstone. After she completed her OB/GYN residency in 2000, she immediately accepted a full-time position at an academic medical center where she worked diligently for 14 years. But when the medical center was bought by a big hospital corporation, and she was presented with a new contract that included a salary cut and other unsatisfactory stipulations, Dr. Brown knew it was time for a change.
“I decided to leave my job and take a year off for myself. I had never taken time off before — not after college, medical school, or residency. But I had always dreamed of traveling around the world. I’m a scuba diver, so I made a list of places I wanted to go diving and that became my travel plan,” recalls Dr. Brown.
During that transformative year, Dr. Brown saw 14 different countries. “It was the best experience of my life and afterward I could not stand the idea of going back to work full time, so I looked into working as a locum tenens OB/GYN. For so many years the hospital had required me to focus on seeing more patients and making more money. I had lost my joy for medicine. So I wanted to rekindle that joy, and I wanted to manage my own schedule. I was determined to keep travel and scuba diving as a big part of my life.”
A locum tenens lifeline
Since then, Dr. Brown has practiced locum tenens exclusively. “I work for three or four months at a time, and then I travel for about a month. I love my life now. I find my work rewarding again, and I have time away from work for the things I enjoy.”
Over the past few years, Dr. Brown has taken locum tenens OB/GYN assignments in a variety of settings and locations. “Practicing in very rural areas where patients are in desperate need of doctors is incredibly satisfying. There are times when I am the only OB/GYN physician on duty within a two-hour car ride. Those patients are so grateful to see an experienced provider. I feel much more appreciated now than I did in my regular practice.”
Rural areas also appeal to Dr. Brown’s love of the outdoors. “I use locum tenens assignments as a way to explore new areas of the country. I really like outdoor activities, such as hiking and biking, so being in areas that have wilderness is ideal.”
During her time off, Dr. Brown takes exploring to a new level. “I spend about three months each year not working. During those months, I focus on international travel and scuba diving. I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau specials on National Geographic on television. Being a marine biologist and hanging out with animals under water was the coolest thing I could imagine. So when I finished my residency in 2000, I took a vacation at a resort where they teach diving, and I started taking scuba classes. That was when I fell in love with traveling and the dive community.”
Dr. Brown has done almost 600 dives and she’s a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) dive master. “I know all the diving skills and when I eventually retire from practicing medicine, teaching scuba diving may be my next job. I’ll retire to a tropical island and take people out on dives for fun.”
But Dr. Brown is not ready to retire just yet. “My current situation is ideal. The locum tenens lifestyle gives me the freedom and flexibility I need. I will likely continue this way for another 10 years, as I work toward my financial retirement goals. Of course, I make less money than I used to because I work less hours. But I cover my mortgage and my living expenses, and I contribute the maximum allowable amount to my tax-free savings, all while living a life I love. For me, it’s like the credit card commercial says: ‘Freedom is priceless.’”