Sandeep K. Aggarwal, MD, shares what it’s like to be a new locum tenens physician on your first assignment.
So you’ve made it to the first day of your new locums tenens assignment. You’ve checked into the hotel and adrenaline keeps you from thinking about the new realities of living alone and starting a new career. You’re excited to begin. You’ve gone through the long licensing, interviewing. and credentialing process over the past few months and are eager to get your hands dirty. Now what?
You go through orientation and meet the staff. Good so far. At the very least, one consolation is you know how to take care of patients. This is the familiar part. Just like anything else new though, there is a bit of a learning curve to get the hang of things — like the clinic or wards and the flow. There is also familiarizing yourself with a new or updated EMR system. You recall the advice from your locums consultant and the locum website about adaptability and affability. You come prepared dressed for success and ready to make a good impression. You have a pretty good idea of how things work but will learn quickly over time. Regardless, the first day is eventually over and you’re done. You’re free.
Home away from home
You walk or drive back to your hotel and now comes the mixed bag of emotions as you enter the empty and dark room alone. If you have a family who is now far away, this is especially poignant. Most rooms will have a TV and small fridge. There is excitement over the new beginning, sadness about leaving home, and some trepidation about performing well and adapting to the new work environment. The next couple of days go by and the clinic or wards are great. But now what? You can’t just work without doing something else. You’ll fall into a rut. Sure, you can call your family and check in but for how long?
This is the time to do some soul searching. How to spend time in the evenings other than just watching TV? One good thing is that most hotels have a gym and up until COVID they were fully functioning. They are slowly returning to some normalcy. Finding dinner also can kill some time but can be challenging with just a microwave and small fridge. Most providers eat out —though the food is rich and salty. You will get good at searching for healthy foods that can be cooked in the microwave or bought at specialty stores or restaurants.
Time for self-discovery
But what about time for yourself? This is an opportunity to allow for creativity, self-development and hobbies. The COVID has inadvertently done this for a lot of people due to self-quarantining but locums has always lent itself to this given its very nature.
I know one thing I did was to pick up a book about 18th century history that was burning a hole in my bookshelf. I always meant to get to it but never did until now. I essentially rekindled my interest in this period of history — probably the reason I bought it in the first place. Hobbies or interests such as these that were buried may now start to emerge with the down time. There is also a chance to start new ones, like learning a language or sport. If in the mountains or other scenic areas, there are ample opportunities to explore the outdoors and make new friends. Eventually, your spouse can come out to visit. Reading or writing is a lost art and can be further cultivated. I started a new subscription to Kindle Unlimited and borrow books every month across a wide range of topics. Even if I just dabble or skim through, it still provides a nice distraction and update on world literature at the same time. The news after a while is too depressing so I limit it as much as possible.
A new lease on life
I can say I feel much more fulfilled on my assignments now and can approach the next day with renewed vigor and interest. I constantly update myself on the latest developments in the field to stay up on the advancements via CME activities and make sure I’m available to the patients and staff. I find this to be the most rewarding part of the job and feel I have grown into a better person in the process.