You have chosen the locum tenens lifestyle because you have always wanted to combine your love of medicine with your passion for travel. You are not alone. And yet, sometimes it feels like you are. You never quite end up where you want to be when you want to be there. You always feel like you are moving from assignment to assignment rather than traveling.
So what’s the deal? It could be that you are not planning for your travel well enough in advance. That’s not to say you aren’t booking your flights or arranging for your mail to be forwarded quickly enough. It is to say that maybe you are not planning where you want to go far enough in advance to actually make it happen.
There are a couple of ways to look at locum travel. The first is to wait until 2 to 3 weeks before your current assignment ends before you start looking for something else. When you follow this method, you are more likely to end up taking what’s left over rather than getting first choice of what should have been a much larger pool of contracts.
The second method is to plan for your travel three or four assignments ahead. It is all explained below. The farther in advance you plan, the more likely it is you will get the chance to visit the destinations you want to see.
Think of the Seasons
The first thing is to keep the seasons in mind. For the sake of this discussion, let us assume you are not a big fan of snow and cold temperatures. You definitely don’t want to end up with an assignment in upstate New York between late December and early March. That means every winter you’ll need an assignment somewhere else.
How does this help? Let’s say you’re currently working a three-month assignment that ends in June. You should already be looking for a winter assignment starting late December or early January. You are still five months out, so you’ll have a decent selection to work with. If you wait until November, you may not find anything in a warm weather locale.
Think of Your Experiences
The next thing on your list is to think about the kinds of experiences you are looking for as a physician. Perhaps you have always wanted to practice rural medicine just to see what it’s like to be a country doctor, so to speak. The best time to do that is in the dead of summer. Spring is planting season, so physicians are less likely to treat the full range of patients. The same is true come fall. Summer is when the entire family is more likely to make a visit to the doctor’s office.
Consider Cultural Aspects
Perhaps one of your reasons for traveling is to experience new cultures. Maybe you’ve always want to know what it’s like to be part of the Aspen or Vail ski culture. If so, you need to start thinking about an assignment 6 to 8 months in advance. It’s the same if you’ve wanted to experience New Orleans during Mardi Gras or New York City during the Christmas season.
The lesson to be learned here is pretty straightforward: plan well in advance based on the factors that are most important to you. Locum tenens assignments are posted long before they ever begin so as to give recruiters and locums enough time to get things in place. Therefore, it is possible to always be looking several assignments ahead. That’s how you guarantee you get to go where you want to go.