Sandeep K. Aggarwal, MD, shares his tips on how to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle while traveling for a locum tenens assignment.
Some people consider locums tenens to be nothing more than a form of consulting where the provider simply travels to the location, offers care, then returns to his or her home base — only to return again or move on to another assignment. While that may be true in its simplest form, why not have some fun or new experiences while on assignment? It does not necessarily have to be an isolated process. You can establish a healthy and active lifestyle while working locum tenens by finding activities in the community and creating a sense of camaraderie at the same time.
Create a healthy routine
Locum tenens isn’t all that different from a permanent position with all of its normal social perks. Depending upon your field and pattern of practice — whether inpatient, outpatient, OR/ED — there is always some degree of free time after hours. Use this time to develop yourself and continue to grow internally. Taking care of yourself will allow you to offer better and more meaningful care to your patients. Indeed, staying both physically and mentally active — with various means of socialization — is helpful for both your brain and physical health. Adhering to a regular diet with adequate hydration and sleep whenever possible can also improve (or at least maintain) your health while away from home.
Take time to explore the community
Every assignment presents opportunities to explore the local community for indoor and outdoor activities. Many places have local festivals or gatherings. While the COVID pandemic has resulted in some restrictions (and may even lead to some hesitation to go out), you can still enjoy an event while taking precautions or meeting up with a colleague.
During inclement weather, there is always the possibility to check out a museum or different type of restaurant. Hospitals typically have event calendars and the staff are great resources for learning about local customs and culture — from farmer’s markets to local fests and music artists.
Keep yourself physically and mentally fit
The housing for most assignments is in hotels or apartment complexes that have fitness rooms. Take advantage of these amenities. There is no reason not to set up an exercise routine while on assignment — even for a few minutes here and there; couple this with healthy meals and snacks.
In addition to socializing with your colleagues, you can stay mentally fit by improving your knowledge beyond work-related matters. Hobbies such as reading or learning new skills on social media are widely available. YouTube is a great way to explore new hobbies. TED Talks are a great way to get intellectual stimulation and get ideas for further study or future projects.
Befriend the people you work with
Fellow locum providers are usually in the same boat as you, which provides a great opportunity to — at the very least — get to know each other at work and learn about their experiences. They can also be a good source later for references and letters of recommendations.
If the assignment is in a small city or rural area, the permanent staff can offer insights into living and working as a physician or mid-level provider in these regions. Without even picking up a book, there is so much to learn from these individuals.
Discover new places
Locums can also provide ideas for future travel opportunities. Even if you are too busy to explore much while on assignment, the area surrounding the community where you are working may have attractions such as lakes, mountains, and historical sites that you can explore at a later time with friends and family.
Ordinarily, tourists take bus tours or hire a local guide to help navigate the terrain, but as a visiting locum you can explore an area with the advantage of others’ experiences. You may even want to meet up with some of your colleagues outside of work. Learning from others about a location allows you to have a deeper understanding and more fulfilling experience. The chance to get to know people from different walks of life can be quite rewarding and allows you to further expand your horizons beyond the usual confines of work.
Whether you are going to a location just to work or want to learn more about the community and its surroundings, taking care of yourself physically and mentally while on assignment will make your locum tenens experience both more enriching and more enjoyable.