Nurse Practitioner Mary Vincent was never one to shy away from travel and adventure. Stints in the Peace Corps, CARE International and the Foreign Service took her to the Pacific Islands, Haiti, Tunisia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, among other exotic locales.
Eventually, Mary heeded the call of Alaska and settled down in a small town there. After nine years, she decided to leave her small local clinic, but at 66 years old, she wasn’t quite ready to hang up either her career or her traveling shoes.
Mary had read something about locum tenens work and saw it as an intriguing opportunity. “I thought it would be an interesting way to keep practicing and see other parts of the country,” she said.
Mary reached out to Staff Care, and recruiter Chris Wood found a good fit for her: a Navajo Indian Healthcare clinic in Arizona. Mary spent four months last year at Fort Defiance Indian Hospital, and three months earlier this year at the Nahatá’ Dziil clinic in Sanders, Arizona.
As she settled into her assignment, Mary was pleased to find herself among other caring, like-minded healthcare providers and in a setting with better staffing than she previously experienced. She also found herself loving the rolling plains of the high desert. An avid animal watcher, Mary often took breaks behind the clinic in a quest to spot desert cottontail rabbits and other local fauna.
Of course, as with any healthcare setting, there were challenges.
One thing that surprised Mary was how far and wide the clinic’s patients were flung, and how rural some of the settings were. Many of her patients lived beyond the city water supply and had water brought to their homes by truck. Some used outdoor latrines, and a few didn't have electricity.
In addition to lack of utilities, lack of transportation was often an issue. Patients would sometimes have to catch a ride with someone, or rely on bus service that ran to the clinic once a day. This meant Mary saw a lot of walk-ins who missed their regular appointments.
Despite these challenges, Mary said that one of the most rewarding aspects of working at the clinic was the commitment of the staff to providing good healthcare to their patients, regardless of their location or economic status.
Mary advises those considering locum tenens work, especially in an Indian health or government setting, to be flexible. “Look at things you haven’t thought of before, look at different parts of the country,” she said. Having an open and outgoing personality also helps, since smaller communities may not be as open to outsiders. “Even if you are reserved, if you can try to go past your comfort level, people sense that you’re open to them.”
Where will she go next? She is still working with Staff Care recruiter Chris Wood, who has an eye out for her next adventure, this time possibly a little closer to her home in Alaska.
If you would like to learn more about working locum tenens or opportunities in rewarding settings such as Indian Healthcare clinics, please contact one of our recruiters today at (800) 685-2272.