While providing unparalleled patient care is at the core of everything you do as a nurse practitioner, tending to the health of your career is equally vital to your growth and professional well-being.
The decisions you make regarding where, when, and how much you work shape your long-term development. It also provides you with the opportunities you need to succeed. That’s why many nurse practitioners are turning to locum tenens. These travel nursing jobs offer NPs the chance to explore opportunities beyond those available in a typical day job.
If you’ve considered locum tenens or are interested in learning more, check out these top 10 reasons you’ll want to work it into your professional rotation.
1. Focus on the patient
Ever notice how it gets harder and harder to dedicate the kind of time and attention you want to patients who need it most? You’re not alone. Whether you call it bureaucracy, paperwork, red tape, or simply the administrative beast that stands in the way of you doing your job, working locum tenens assignments gives you the ability to focus solely on the clinical aspects of patient care.
Sasha Dunbar is an NP who’s been working locum tenens with Weatherby for about seven years. She says, “With locums, I’m able to go in and do my job, give my patients what they need, and then have time after that because I don’t have commitments to whatever company I’m working with for committees and projects and things of that nature.”
2. Gain clinical knowledge
Nurse practitioners who work locum tenens get to experience a variety of clinical settings, giving them exposure to new treatment methods, unique perspectives, and interesting challenges. It’s a great way to stay refreshed and engaged and improve your professional skills.
Patricia Gambrell, who worked as an RN for 20 years before becoming an NP, credits locums with helping her learn new skills. “It has allowed me to branch out into an area that, while it wasn’t completely new, I’m doing things that I hadn’t done before, or had only done minimally.”
Dunbar echoes these sentiments. “Having that exposure to other providers and seeing how they do things, how they manage their schedules and charting issues, helps,” she says. “I think having exposure to different sorts of medical electronic record systems helps you to fine-tune your documentation because you have to get to the nuts and bolts of the situation clinically and be able to navigate through these systems very quickly.”
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3. Give back and provide mentorship
Late-career NPs understand the value of their hard-earned experience, but sometimes sharing that experience can be difficult. As a locum, many NPs can help a clinic or facility in need while offering mentorship to younger nurse practitioners, thereby extending their skills and knowledge.
For example, Dunbar was tasked with starting up a new service offering when she was on assignment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. “They began offering a same-day clinic at this particular location, so I kind of piloted that program, and they decided to adopt it as a full-time position for their regular staff,” she says. “I think that was my favorite [assignment], just because I was able to experience one of the top hospital systems in the country and help them start up a new service that they offered.”
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4. Avoid burnout
With more patients, increased quotas, and suffocating regulations, healthcare providers are trying to squeeze more patients into smaller windows of time. Because locum tenens is flexible, NPs can remove many of the systemic burdens while having a choice in where and how much they work.
Gambrell says that her Weatherby consultant worked long and hard to find her an assignment that was a good fit for what she was looking for. “She worked to make sure that I was getting something that I would like long term,” she says. That assignment has allowed her to work fewer hours, going from 12-hour days down to eight-hour days, what Gambrell calls a “win-win situation.”
5. Take control of your workload
Locum tenens allows NPs to choose when, where, and why they work. Want to take a few months off? Locum tenens will be there when you’re ready. Looking to explore a new city? Select from jobs in that area. Need to work closer to family? Chances are there’s a locum tenens job that will accommodate.
Dunbar says she appreciates being able to set her own schedule and spend more time with her family. “I think I’ve had more vacation time since I started working as a locum than I ever had doing any other job. For me, that’s the biggest benefit,” she says. “And because the pay is good, you can do that and not have to make too many sacrifices. So you can afford to take two months off if you want to, and not have it be detrimental to your financial situation.”
6. Enjoy more opportunities to relax
As a locum tenens NP, hours you previously spent working overtime or taking call can now be filled with family and friends, hobbies, physical fitness, community service — or absolutely nothing at all. Since you can manage your own schedule, building in time for what you want to do is easy.
NP Renee Watson has used locum tenens as a way to continue working while also having the chance to explore the world. She’s taken time off in between past assignments to explore London, Spain, Malta, and Mexico. During an assignment in Hawaii, she says, “I work seven-on, seven-off, which gives me a guaranteed seven days to do whatever I wish to do, which at this point in time is to explore the Pacific Rim.”
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7. More income
The basic reality is that you do a job and it needs to provide you the income you need to thrive. Whether you work locums as a supplement to your day job or as a full-time opportunity, NPs can use locum tenens to earn more, add to a rainy-day fund, pay for that dream vacation, or just feel more financially sound.
Watson says simply, “I will say that my pay is nothing that I’m complaining about. It is much higher than what I was making as a permanent staff person.”
8. Receive employee benefits as a W-2 employee
Not all locum tenens agencies offer benefits to nurse practitioners, and that’s why several NPs choose to work with Weatherby.
“The reason why I chose Weatherby was because it’s a W-2 agency, so I also get healthcare, a 401(k), and they take the taxes out without me having to stress about it,” says Watson. “The high pay in addition to the benefits that are afforded to me makes locums a very attractive option.”
Find out if locums is right for you
The best way to find out if locum tenens is right for you is to give it a try. The consultants at Weatherby Healthcare can help you review open locum tenens positions, assess your goals, and find a first assignment that’s the right fit for you.