If you’re thinking about locum tenens as a career strategy, you’re likely up to speed on the financial, professional, and work/life benefits. It’s fairly easy to commit and go on assignment if you’re single, but in a long-term relationship, there’s another person’s needs and wants to consider. Here are 5 things to talk about if you’re considering locum tenens with a spouse or partner:
- Are we clear on our common goals?
- Have we talked openly about our free time expectations?
- Have we asked questions about the facility we’re visiting?
- Have we learned as much as we can about the location?
- Have we given our imaginations room to run?
Dr. Steve Kinsman, Pediatric Neurologist, travels with his wife Kelli. They shared their thoughts on how assignments look from the spouse or partner point of view. Let’s take a closer look at their 5 suggested things to watch for.
1. Locum tenens with a spouse – get clear about your common goals
Although retirement is still in the future for Steve and Kelli, they’re thinking about it now. Flexibility and financial security matter to both of them. Steve transitioned into full-time locums gradually from his permanent job with Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). “So far [the assignments] have been continuous, so no snags, and I’m still at a point where I need to do that for the income. Our recruiter Peter has been great about making the schedule work,” Steve said. They’re making steady progress toward their retirement targets.
Two other factors that figured into their locums decision were benefits and Kelli’s nursing career. They had to time the transition carefully because their benefit eligibility at MUSC depended on the percentage of permanent hours Steve was working. The new arrangement also meant that Kelli would not be working, since travel nursing jobs tend to run much longer than locums assignments. Steve said, “The trade-offs made sense for us because of the chance to travel and take time off together.”
2. Talk openly about your free time expectations
Locum tenens is an ideal choice for the Kinsmans because of the freedom it gives them. Steve said, “The first thing that came up for us [when considering locums] was the ability to take time off. Kelli is a pediatric nurse and we were looking for a change. Doing locums, I’m able to take off a week or two a month, so that’s been nice.”
It’s important to know what “time off” means to both partners and make a realistic plan around working hours during the assignment. Kelli said, “We discussed it for a long time and I think it’s fair to say that we were both equally sold on the idea of locums. I wanted a change for Steve because he needed some breaks.” Steve said, “In Albuquerque they gave me a whole week of EMR training. I had no patient responsibility the first week, so we had a little time to acclimate and get to know the town.”
3. Ask questions about the facility you’re visiting
Steve and Kelli pointed out that not all facilities have the same level of experience when it comes to working with locum tenens clinicians. Kelli said, “Adapting to a new computer system is a big deal and can be a big learning curve. How much time is given to that?”
Steve added, “The facility in Albuquerque did a good job of fitting daily notes and paperwork into an eight to five schedule, which was almost impossible in my MUSC job. Make sure your agency consultant builds that into your schedule so it’s not eating up your off time.”
Steve also cautions first-timers to ask about how much experience the facility has with locums in their personal specialty. He found that the Albuquerque facility knew more about what they wanted from locums in the pediatric specialties. Things ran much more smoothly for him there than on his early assignments in Spokane, Washington. “They had trouble recruiting people there. Locums was more of an experiment at that facility, so it was a learning curve on both sides,” he said.
4. Learn as much as you can about the location
“If couples are going to do this,” Steve said, “the one thing I’d recommend is to take a few days of their own time on the first stint so they have a chance to kind of settle in. In Spokane I had a short orientation, then boom, I was in the thick of it.” Steve and Kelli encourage first-timers to consider distances from their home city, and from the facility to their housing while on assignment.
Kelli said, “I have young grandchildren and elderly parents, so I’m kind of it for them. The hardest part for me isn’t the travel, but the distance. It takes a while to get home in case I’m needed.”
Kelli is not in a position where she can work because it requires weeks of orientation and when Steve is doing two-week assignments, they’re not in town long enough for her to get a job. On the other hand, Steve said, “the flexibility in the schedule has been good and when we have obligations, we’ve been able to work around them.”
5. Give your imagination room to run
You can hear the enthusiasm in Steve and Kelli’s voices when they talk about the experiences that have come their way since they started traveling together. They fill their newfound free time with sightseeing, outdoor activities, live music, and making new friends in the cities they visit. Now that they’ve had a taste of the locum tenens lifestyle, they’re thinking bigger about what’s possible.
Kelli said, “We wanted something on the East Coast that’s a short flight, or an easy drive when I need to be with my parents or grandkids.” Peter, their Weatherby consultant is lining up an assignment in Roanoke, Virginia, which is only a six-hour drive from the Kinsman’s home in Charleston. “We don’t know yet what Steve’s workload is going to be like at the new facility,” Kelli said, “but Peter has been great about including me in correspondence and making sure I know what’s going on.”
Weatherby consultants are experts at placing experts like you – and helping you design a locum tenens lifestyle that works for you and that special someone in your life.