Advanced Practice

Why NPs love working locum tenens

Nurse practitioner talks to a patient and her infant during an appointment

Many nurse practitioners who’ve heard of locum tenens may hesitate to try it. If you’re one of them, here’s the inside scoop from several NPs — from why they love working locums to what they find challenging about the career choice and why they’d still choose it again.

Why NPs choose to work locum tenens

From flexible scheduling to travel opportunities and learning new skills, NPs overwhelmingly mention the positives when sharing their experience with locum tenens.

Flexible scheduling

David Trinidad, an NP who also holds a post as a professor at the University of Arizona, loves working locums due to its flexible scheduling.

“The thing is,” David says, “if I had a regular seven-on-seven-off NP job, there’s no way I could do that because eventually things would catch up.” During the semester, he’s concentrating on school. When school’s out, he can accept as many locum assignments as he wants.

Kim Huck is another example. As an NP, she was on the verge of retiring to spend more time caring for her elderly father. Her career was important to her, but the health and well-being of her father were even more important. Thanks to locums, she doesn’t have to choose between the two.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you can just pick up and go someplace and make it work. Just to enjoy what you do and feel like you’re being helpful to someone else,” she says.

Quote from NP Kim Huck about why she enjoys locum tenens

Opportunity to travel

Patricia Gambrell, an NP specializing in cardiology, enjoys working locums for the sense of adventure it brings. When her children were young and lived at home, picking up and leaving for a few weeks or months probably wouldn’t have worked out very well. But at this stage in her career, that’s no longer an issue.

“It’s just working well for my lifestyle right now,” she says. “I get to see new things, meet new people.” On top of that, she says her workday is usually much shorter—eight hours instead of 12—which means more time for exploring.

Renee Watson loved her full-time NP position in Maryland. What she didn’t love was the winter weather. “I just couldn’t deal with the snow,” she says, “I couldn’t deal with the cold.” These days, she uses locums to ensure she’s living and working in climates that agree with her. “I definitely am able to choose where I want to be within the context of the seasonal changes,” she says. “It’s winter, and I’m in Hawaii. It can’t get much better than that.”

NP Renee Watson on why locums allows her to travel to warm climates in the winter

Get a sneak preview: What to expect as a new locums NP

Freedom from administrative work

Joy Sutton didn’t enjoy all the administrative tasks as a regular, full-time NP. On a locum assignment, all that disappears.

“I don’t have to take part in the politics, which is beautiful,” she says. “Their rules, unless they personally impact me, I don’t have to worry about. I don’t have to attend any of their staff meetings, per se, unless it’s an NP provider staff meeting. I know that I’m there for just a certain period of time, so whatever they’re doing administratively has almost no impact on me.”

Fellow NP Sasha Dunbar wholeheartedly agrees. “I enjoy the travel, seeing different parts of the country,” she says. “But what I like the most is not having my work consume my life. I go in and do my job, give my patients whatever they need.”

Ultimately, she feels like she has more time because, she says, “I don’t have commitments to whatever company I’m working with for committees and projects and things of that nature. Things that look good on paper but, in reality, consume much of your time. So, I really enjoy that aspect—just going in and doing my job.”

The chance to learn new skills

Another benefit to locums that NPs like Sutton and Dunbar both appreciate is the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and expand their skills.

Sutton’s first locum assignment reminded her there is always more to learn. “I had a discourse with the oncologist, and I’m like, ‘I know how to do it this way, but I saw that you did it this way. What’s the rationale?’ Then she schooled me in on why she was doing what she did, and it made perfect sense.”

Dunbar has a similar take. For her, the practice of medicine is constantly changing. “When you’re in one practice continuously, and you kind of do what you do, you may not know that there’s a better way,” she says.

“Because you just do it the way you do it. You only know what you know and what you see. I think having that exposure to other providers and seeing how they do things—how they manage their schedules, how they manage their charting issues—it really helps.”

Find out more: Top 8 reasons nurse practitioners work locum tenens

NP sits next to patient while talking during an appointment

Challenges of locums to keep in mind

Of course, not everything about being a locum tenens NP is easy. In Dunbar’s experience, the reason a hospital or clinic wants a locum tenens NP could be because it’s understaffed. “You just have to be prepared to kind of face whatever pops up,” she says. “The situation you walk into might not be a well-oiled machine. Sometimes it is, but not always.”  

Watson says that she’s had to pay more attention to her finances. “I would say that if you aren’t financially savvy, you can lose out on a lot of benefits,” she says. “You need a good tax person. You need to make sure you’re getting all of your deductions.” She also says it’s important to plan and budget for taxes since what you owe the government might not be taken out of your paycheck.  

Finally, for NPs with small children, the travel aspect of locum tenens can be tough. Early on, it wouldn’t have worked for Gambrell.

Locum tenens can be a great opportunity for NPs

If you’re an NP looking for more control over your job and personal life, locum tenens might be the right fit. As a locum tenens NP, you choose where you work and for how long. You also decide how much time off you want between assignments, giving you complete control over your schedule and career.

If you ask Gambrell, NPs thinking about locums have nothing to lose. “I would say do it,” she says, “If you don’t like it, then you can go back to doing what you were doing!”

Are you interested in learning more about locum tenens for nurse practitioners? Give us a call at 954.343.3050 or view today’s nurse practitioner job openings.

About the author

Dave Nielsen

Dave Nielsen lives in Salt Lake City. He writes about healthcare, technology, and business.