The late poet Mary Oliver asked, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” If exploring the world is a goal, you’ll love these locum tenens destinations. Each city offers unique scenery and culture, but you’ll also have the chance to sharpen your skills and provide healthcare to a different patient population, often underserved. Here are nine cities to add to your locum tenens bucket list.
1. Anchorage, Alaska
You might not associate “soaking up the sun” with Anchorage, but this coastal city gets more sunlight than any other U.S. city between March and September, when the sun rarely sets. If a spring or summer assignment isn’t in the cards, don’t worry: The Northern Lights appear the rest of the year, and several prime viewing spots are less than an hour from Anchorage.
Animal-lovers will gape at the moose who roam the city and can visit a reindeer farm in Palmer or enjoy bear-viewing on the nearby Kenai Peninsula. Trains also depart daily in the summer for journeys throughout the state, and the popular Glacier Discovery Train offers views of several glaciers and wilderness areas. Of course, Anchorage is the gateway to several national parks, including Denali National Park, Lake Clark National Park, and Kenai Fjords National Park.
While Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and home to nearly 300,000 people, its sprawling boundaries and isolation from other cities make healthcare challenging. Alaska falls last in healthcare coverage in U.S. News’ Best States ranking, and a 2015 report showed natives could expect to live to 69.7 years old, which was the average U.S. life expectancy in 1960. Taking a locum tenens assignment here can impact many lives and provide much-needed care.
2. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
At the other end of the country, Fort Lauderdale is known for its beaches, intercoastal waterways, sunny weather, and social scene. This coastal city isn’t all about looks, though: most of its sandy shores, which stretch for 23 miles, are certified Blue Wave Beaches — meaning they are clean, litter-free, and easily accessible. Hollywood Beach boasts a 2.5-mile brick boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean perfect for walking, biking, or even rollerblading, and shops and restaurants are just steps away. Fort Lauderdale is just 90 minutes from Everglades National Park, and Everglades Holiday Park is only a half hour from the heart of the city if you’re short on time.
You won’t want to miss Las Olas Boulevard, a buzzing street in the heart of the city filled with Mediterranean-inspired architecture, galleries, restaurants, shops, and nightclubs. If you’re in the mood for entertainment, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts is one of the top-visited theaters in the country and also offers lectures and educational events throughout the year.
3. Honolulu, Hawaii
Hawaii’s largest city may be known for Waikiki Beach and its world-famous surfing and snorkeling, but Honolulu residents (and other Hawaiians) don’t have enough access to community-based health centers for care or treatment for mental illnesses. The state also has one of the highest rates of homeless residents in the nation, and many homeless people come to Hawaii from other states to receive healthcare. Working locum tenens here gives you the opportunity to help many people in desperate need of care.
Of course, Hawaii is also a popular destination for its sunny weather and stunning views. For a serious workout, hike more than 1,000 railroad-tie steps on the Koko Crater Trail, or go a little easier on the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail. You don’t want to miss Oahu’s historical and cultural sites either. Visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and the Battleship Missouri Memorial to learn more about World War II, and spend a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center to tour villages, attend a luau, or stay for the evening dances.
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
It’s called the Big Easy for a reason, and it’s easy to find things to love in New Orleans. Foodies will be in heaven noshing on po-boys from Domilise’s, beignets from Café du Monde, and traditional Creole dishes at Commander’s Palace. New Orleans is also home to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, an homage to and history of Southern classics (and, of course, there’s a restaurant). Great food goes hand-in-hand with great music, so head down Frenchmen Street for live performances at every hour. Don’t miss jazz mass on Sundays at St. Augustine Catholic Church, jazz brunch at Muriel’s, and local musicians at the Spotted Cat.
For stunning architecture and vibrant culture, head to the French Quarter. Make sure you visit the St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo and (especially during Mardi Gras) Bourbon Street. A cruise on the Steamboat Natchez, the last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi, is also a must.
5. Rapid City, South Dakota
Mount Rushmore is the draw for this western city, but South Dakota offers more than just famous presidents’ faces. Rapid City is just an hour from Badlands National Park, known for its rock formations and dazzling night skies, and just 60 minutes east of Black Hills National Forest. If you’re interested in seeing wildlife during your assignment, don’t miss the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary or a buffalo safari jeep tour in Custer National Park.
Step back in time with a ride on the 1880 Train through the Black Hills or a visit to the Chapel in the Hills, an exact replica of Norway’s Borgund stavkirke. HBO fans will relish a trip to Deadwood, which inspired the Western drama, and the Big Thunder Gold Mine is worth a stop as well.
South Dakota has a rapidly growing elderly population while the number of young people in the state is decreasing. This increase in healthcare needs makes Rapid City a fulfilling place to take a locum tenens assignment.
6. Reno, Nevada
Though not nearly as famous as its sinful neighbor seven hours south, Reno is a city worth visiting. You’re less than an hour from Lake Tahoe’s tranquil blue water and can then embark on the “Most Beautiful Drive in America” for sights in both California and Nevada. Don’t have time to leave the city? Reno’s scenic Riverwalk District stretches along the Truckee River downtown and is home to many restaurants, galleries, shops, and festivals. If you’re working here in late summer, make time for the Great Reno Balloon Race, where more than 100 hot air balloons fill the sky each September.
Reno is also famous for its casinos, especially the Eldorado and Atlantis. Even if slot machines and table games aren’t your thing, the Reno Arch (sporting the phrase “The Biggest Little City in the World”) is worth a visit at night.
7. Spokane, Washington
This scenic eastern Washington city was home to the 1974 World’s Fair, and its iconic U.S. Pavilion — and revitalized downtown — still pay homage to the festival. Don’t miss Riverfront Park, a sprawling, 100-acre campus with a carousel, 40-mile paved bike trail, and views of the Spokane River and Spokane Falls. Pedestrian bridges span the falls, which continue to supply hydroelectric power to the region today (look for the landmark Washington Water Power building). River Park Square, adjacent to the park, is a hub for shopping, dining, and entertaining.
If you want to escape the thundering falls for a bit, visit Manito Park, featuring five botanical gardens, a conservatory, and an arboretum. Gonzaga University offers a picturesque campus, and the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist offers beautiful carvings and stained glass windows. Drive just 40 minutes east to the Idaho resort town Coeur d’Alene for stunning lake views and water recreation.
8. Auckland, New Zealand
Pull out your passport and experience the beauty of the Southern Hemisphere with Weatherby’s partner company Global Medical Staffing. Though New Zealanders have an average life expectancy of 81.4 years, Maori and Pacific people have a lower life expectancy by about six years and are 2-3 times more likely to die of preventable conditions. Obesity is also a serious problem in New Zealand, impacting 30% of Pacific children. Healthcare needs here make this city a must for locum tenens assignments.
When you’re not working, take advantage of New Zealand’s beaches. Since the city spans two harbors, you can swim at a white-sand beach on the east coast in the morning and head to a black-sand beach on the west coast in the afternoon. Paddle your kayak (or take a short ferry ride) to Rangitoto Island, the region’s youngest volcano, and watch the sun set, or visit the Great Barrier Island for unparalleled views of the night sky.
Lord of the Rings fans, rejoice: The Hobbiton Movie Set is just 110 miles from Auckland, and you can have a drink at the Green Dragon Inn while you’re there.
9. Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Once again partnering with Global Medical Staffing, you can experience Caribbean paradise on your own time when you work in St. Croix. Christiansted, a charming town of just 3,000 people, features several Danish colonial buildings. Take a tour of Fort Christiansvaern, built in 1749 to protect the island from pirates, and other historic buildings at the Christiansted National Historic Site. Visit Buck Island Reef National Monument to see unique animals and plants, and snorkel or scuba dive for a close-up view of the reef. For a calming oasis, visit Protestant Cay, a sandy beach close to downtown Christiansted.
One thing that might not be on your paradise bucket list is a church tour. St. Croix is home to 13 historic churches, some built in the 18th century. If you’re short on time, visit the Steeple Building and the Holy Cross Catholic Church, both in Christiansted. You can also explore historic sugar mills and plantations for more structures built in the 1700s.
No matter which locum tenens destinations you’d like to explore, there are many exciting places throughout the world where you can take a “working vacation” and provide much-needed care to those in need.