Many oncology NPs are choosing to work locum tenens over permanent employment, and it isn’t hard to see why. With locum tenens, oncology NPs have complete control over their schedules — choosing when and how much they want to work. For those who enjoy travel, locum tenens offers the opportunity see the country by taking assignments anywhere that interests them. And while the rest of the healthcare team is stuck in meetings, oncology NPs have more time to focus on what really matters — taking care of patients. Here are five reasons oncology NPs are choosing to take back control of their careers with locum tenens.
1. To escape the office politics
Joy Sutton, an oncology NP for more than 10 years, first heard about locums from a manager who recommended it for NPs who don’t like dealing with office politics. Joy heeded his advice and found he was right.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” she says, being the locums NP in an office of permanent NPs. “Their rules, unless they personally impact me, don’t apply. I don’t have to attend any of their staff meetings usually. I’m close enough to take part in the care of the patients and support the needs of the staff. But not so close that I have be giving input to the organization.”
2. To feed the travel bug
What Joy says she loves most about locums is the opportunity to travel. Before, she only had her vacation time for exploring. Now, every assignment has elements of an extended vacation.
Hopefully the location is near the water or some other relaxing destination. “I like to go to the beach and sit there with a book all day,” she says. No matter where she goes, it isn’t long before she has discovered places to ride a bike, do yoga, or just sling a hammock. She wants the full experience, and does her best to live like a local.
“I go and get to know the local community. I hang out with the staff if they’re having events. I go to the market,” she says.
The travel aspect of locums rejuvenates Joy, keeps her on her toes, and maybe even makes her a better NP. “I think I’m one of those souls who just can’t stay in one place for very long. I travel, I learn about the different cultures, and I give my service to them. Then I move on to the next assignment.”
3. To have a better work/life balance
Ann Summerlin, an oncology NP since 1998, was on the verge of burnout in her last permanent job. Her work schedule wasn’t just intense, it was inflexible, and scheduling any time off was always harder than it needed to be. She regularly searched for ways to shake up the routine and energize her perspective.
Fortunately, Ann decided to try locum tenens, and the rest is history. “This has been the only way for me to control my day,” she explains, “to really have some work/life balance.”
For Ann, the advantages of working locums can be summed up in one word: control. She’s living her life the way she wants to live it, and she feels like the extra space makes her better at her job. “Will I go back and work anywhere full-time?” she asks, when asked about her options. “No. I will not. Will I do more locums? Yes, I most definitely will.”
4. To build your experience
Michelle Hartley, another experienced medical oncology NP, has chosen locums for reasons similar to Ann’s — she wanted more flexibility and control over her schedule. She chooses assignments in smaller centers, offices, and hospitals where the atmosphere is less hectic and the relationships with physicians and patients is “different.”
For Michelle, each locum tenens assignment is like a continuing education course — without the homework, of course. Each one is an opportunity to learn new practice methods that she adds to her repertoire of skills and expertise. “It’s always nice to hear things explained in a different way,” she says. “We all know the basics. But I feel like you take a little bit from each place, and you build within yourself your own medical philosophy out of what you feel are the best pieces from each of your experiences.”
Joy Sutton has had a similar experience. She remembers her first locum experience and seeing an oncologist veering away from what Joy thought was the preferred method. She asked the doctor what was up and learned a valuable new technique in the process. “Medicine is always changing,” Joy says. “That doctor schooled me on why she was doing things a certain way, and it made perfect sense. That’s why we have to keep up.”
5. To navigate unexpected challenges
For some oncology NPs who need more schedule flexibility, early retirement may seem like the best option, especially if your family needs you at home.
This is what happened to Kim Huck, an oncology NP with more than 30 years of experience. When her home life changed and she needed to devote time to care for her elderly father, she thought her only option was to retire.
After four months of retirement, however, a representative from a locum agency contacted her about an intriguing opportunity working locum tenens. Kim ended up saying yes. Her father still needed her attention, but the assignment wasn’t long, and she was able to make arrangements. Plus, when it was over, she’d be back home again and able to spend as much time as she wanted.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Kim was pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed the assignment. On the weekends, her husband came to stay with her. She took a cooking class and had fun exploring the city. Best of all, though, were the reactions she got from the office where she was working. “People were so grateful that I was there,” she says. “What a wonderful feeling to know that you can just pick up and go someplace and make it work like that — to just enjoy what you do and feel like you’re being helpful to someone else.”
What can locums do for you?
Locum tenens can be a rewarding career choice for oncology NPs in any stage of their career. How would your life be different if you had more control over your schedule, more time to pursue your own interests, more flexibility with when and where you work? Locum tenens might be a good fit for your too!