Unless you are fortunate enough to be offered a local opportunity, you will invariably need to arrange for travel to your locums job. The good news is that Weatherby boasts excellent agents who will take care of all your bookings and see to all your travel needs. The bad news, however, is that with tightening budgets, fewer airline employees, and more unpredictable weather, air travel these days has become increasingly unpredictable. Having worked with locums companies for a number of years now, I can offer some perspective on travel that may be valuable to other individuals who are starting up or who are in positions similar to my own.
Consider driving instead of flying
Perhaps the most important piece of advice that I have to offer is that when you are traveling, if driving is at all possible — even if it involves a 4- or 6-hour trip — it is tremendously more time-efficient and reliable than flights. This is especially true if you have a primary practice and need to optimize your time.
Personally, I have very little time to spare for transit. As a result, I can’t afford to be late, either to or from an assignment. In my experience, most flights are not direct, and you will burn a tremendous amount of otherwise valuable time traveling to and from airports, waiting for flights which may be delayed or canceled, and idling during layovers. When you drive, a rental will be covered and gas reimbursed. But most importantly, this removes a number of potentially weak and costly links in the chain.
Plan for holiday travel challenges
Make sure you take holidays into account. While you will not have to worry about hotel reservations —because the company is accustomed to planning ahead — travel is an unavoidable issue. Not only is air travel a predictable mess, but if you are planning on renting a car and driving, the rental agencies are sometimes sold out for days around the holidays. Plan accordingly. I would recommend picking up a car early, potentially even the day before major holiday weekends.
Allow time for missed flights
Make sure that you allot sufficient time to accommodate for missed flights. This is an important consideration, both in regard to arriving on time to your locum assignment as well as returning in a timely fashion to your primary practice or primary engagement.
If you have to fly, always make sure that the locums company books direct flights. This may involve more foresight on your part to ensure that travel is scheduled early enough. Also, while sometimes it may be the most convenient for you when leaving your primary practice, I would strongly caution you to avoid taking the last flight out. This is especially true if you have a layover, given that in my experience there is a very high chance that one flight will be delayed and/or canceled. These considerations are not only for your own convenience but are especially pertinent to maintaining professionalism and making good impressions on your assignments. Granted, extenuating circumstances occasionally intervene, but if you are consistently late, the hospital or company may simply find someone who is not.
Stay in touch with your rep
Whenever traveling, always make sure to keep the locums agency, specifically your representative and travel agent, apprised of any delays, cancellations, or issues that arise during transit. This ensures that the company can not only troubleshoot travel issues real-time as they arise, but they can keep the destination hospital in the loop regarding any delays instead of them finding out last minute and having to scramble for coverage. Make sure that you have an after-hours contact number. I often email and call as I become aware of any potential delays to ensure that the company is tracking and anticipating possible contingency plans. Weatherby is very attentive and anticipates your needs. They will find new flights, pay for hotels, and ultimately take excellent care of you.
What travel advice do you have for other locums? Share your tips in the comments below.