Some people watch TV or read on their time off. Dr. Jeffrey Frye, an OB/GYN working locum tenens in Hawaii, watches sailing competitions and hikes volcanoes. He is currently on a 12-week assignment on the Island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island. It’s his way of easing into retirement after working for 33 years. Here’s what Dr. Frye’s experience has been like.
Locums in retirement
Dr. Frye already had a career in a variety of clinical settings. He started out as a military physician working in small hospitals. Then, he worked in Europe at a larger hospital. When he left the military, he had a solo practice in a small town, which required a lot of hours and little work-life balance. Next, he worked for a large group for 20 years before he retired. Dr. Frye still enjoyed his work though, and he wanted to find a way to travel and continue working at the same time. Locum tenens in Hawaii was the perfect solution.
When his Weatherby recruiter told him about an assignment in Kona, Dr. Frye was already familiar with the area. He had graduated from high school in Hawaii and previously lived in Oahu for four years. Plus, his son and daughter-in-law are both in the Army, currently stationed in Oahu, where they live with their two daughters. Instead of spending hours on a plane to see their grandchildren, Dr. Frye and his wife could visit family with just a 30-minute plane trip. It was the perfect way to keep working and be close to family.
Expectations vs. reality: living in Hawaii
Dr. Frye’s locums assignment is on the Kona coast, on the west side of the Big Island. It’s known for great weather, amazing history, and its volcanoes. He had visited Kona 35 years ago, when he was stationed in Honolulu. There’s a military camp there with cabins for military families to rent, which Dr. Frye and his family would use about once a year. When Dr. Frye asked his son about how Kona had changed over the years, he said, “It’s got everything! They have a Costco.” Dr. Frye took that as a sign of how the area has grown, and that it would have everything he needed to live there for a few months.
Parts of living in Hawaii are idyllic, but Dr. Frye sometimes has a hard time with being on an island. You have to fly anytime you want to leave the island, and sometimes it feels like he’s already seen everything there is to see on the island.
“Some days you just want to see something else,” says Dr. Frye. “I love to drive but you can only see the same roads so many times.”
That said, Dr. Frye has had some incredible moments in Hawaii. One day, Dr. Frye sat in his condo and watched a fishing tournament on the Honokohau Harbor — he counted around 35 ocean fishing boats and saw their catches in the afternoon. A few days prior, he went on a submarine trip. Another time, he saw a cowboy championship in Waimea. Then of course, there’s the classic hiking and snorkeling that Hawaii provides.
On a particularly memorable day, he saw the sunset on Mauna Kea, the highest point in the state. When the sun went down, he got to use one of the telescopes on Mauna Kea to see spectacular stars. “It’s truly amazing,” says Dr. Frye.
Working locum tenens in Hawaii
While Dr. Frye has been working locum tenens in Hawaii, he has enjoyed the idea of being on “Island time” — things are slower and more laid back. Dr. Frye has seen this mentality in his work, even when women are going into labor. In Atlanta, where he worked previously, about 95 percent of his patients would immediately want an epidural. In Hawaii, people tend to favor a more natural approach.
In addition, with the amount of medical information available online, Dr. Frye was used to having patients question his treatment plans after they read about alternative treatments. In Hawaii, people are more trusting of his care. “The people there are very easy going overall and very accepting,” says Dr. Frye. “I’ve been surprised at how little overall the patients ask for.”
In addition, with retirees moving to Hawaii, Dr. Frye has seen a higher number of Medicare patients than he expected.
The clinic that Dr. Frye works at is fairly small, so the capabilities are limited — he can only do basic obstetric treatments and same-day surgeries. For major surgeries, he ends up referring patients to Honolulu.
When asked for his advice for doctors who want to work locum tenens in Hawaii, he suggests it would be helpful to have experience working in a rural environment. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to bring along some cold weather clothing. “If you go up to Volcanos National Park or Mauna Kea, you’ll want long pants and sweaters. It’s gets cold up there.”