Veteran locum Nicholas Kusnezov, MD, shares tips that can improve your experience as you travel to and from locum tenens assignments.
After working locum assignments for a few years now, I would like to think that I have become somewhat of a “road warrior.” Here are a few tricks I have learned over the years that have helped me prepare for and optimize my travel plans and my time in transit.
Drive instead of fly whenever possible
As I have previously mentioned, my preference, if at all possible, is always to drive to the assignment. This is easily the most efficient way of travel when your assignment is within 6 to 8 hours or so. Not only does driving eliminate the inefficiency and inconvenience of flying, but it effectively gives you maximum control over your travel. That said, driving is not always a possibility, but there are some general considerations to keep in mind regardless of how you travel.
Make the most of your downtime during transit
The first main consideration is your down time, either time in transit during long drives or flights or while waiting at airports during layovers. Make sure you bring both work and entertainment. I frequently bring books, audiobooks, and music. I also constantly work while on the move. I always bring my laptop and put thought into what I can be doing to optimize my time. Internet access may be spotty, so be sure to download whatever documents or software you may need ahead of time. Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget your chargers for both your laptop and cell phone.
Allow some buffer time and be flexible
The second most important consideration is to be flexible — flexible with your travel plans, potential dates taken away from your primary practice, and with your scheduled assignment dates. Try not to schedule surgical cases or large clinics either the day you plan to leave or arrive due to the potential for plans to shift a day or so in either direction. Your travel plans will invariably change at some point and you will be forced to figure out contingency plans in a crunch to get from point A to point B, including driving when you thought you’d be flying, or flying into another airport and driving longer than you thought.
Plan for the worst-case scenario
If you are flying, try to only bring carry-ons. I have been in the situation all too often where I am stuck at a layover in the middle of the country, the next flight has been canceled, and passengers without bags immediately get first dibs on being rescheduled, while everyone else is funneled into the endless customer service line to languish for hours.
Conversely, if you are driving, check the weather and make sure that the rental car is equipped for unforeseen circumstances — four-wheel drive, spare tire with a jack, ice scraper for the windows, and a car charger. You might find yourself navigating some snowed-in backcountry roads or get a flat in the middle of nowhere. Always prepare for the worst, and always have contingency plans.
Relax and enjoy the adventure
Lastly — and this point is frequently overlooked — enjoy the trip. If you are driving a few hours, allot some extra time to stop, eat, and see the sights. If you are flying, consider which airports will have a layover, and which ones you might fly into. It may be worth choosing an airport that is just a bit further away from your destination but with a scenic drive or more novelty stops along the way. Remember, life is about the trip just as much as the destination.