By Jennifer Larson, contributor Nov 07, 2020
Some people come home from work and watch television. Others scroll through Facebook and Instagram on their smartphones.
Lisa Austin, ACNP, studies English literature and brushes up on Dutch grammar.
Lisa, an acute care nurse practitioner, is currently on a locum tenens assignment in Salem, Virginia. But when she’s not working, she’s taking two classes toward a bachelor’s degree in English and teaching herself how to speak Dutch.
“My goal would be to do locums for about half the year, and then go abroad and teach English the other half,” she says. “Shall we ever get through the pandemic, I will do that.”
This type of work flexibility is just one of the perks of working locum tenens. Locum tenens nurse practitioners, physicians and other providers can determine how often they take assignments, and carve out time for their own pursuits in between jobs.
The road to becoming a locum tenens nurse practitioner
Lisa worked as a registered nurse for six years before going the nurse practitioner route. Four of those years were spent in the intensive care unit, which spurred her to become an acute care nurse practitioner. Her years at the bedside honed her skills and instincts about caring for patients and their conditions, and continues to inform her decision-making as an advanced practice provider.
“That nursing experience that I had, I have leaned on that heavily,” she says.
She started investigating travel opportunities a few years ago, and in 2016 had a conversation with Staff Care recruiter Nicholas Worley about possibly trying out a locum tenens assignment. Ultimately, she decided to go with a permanent, full-time job instead. After a year in that position, however, she felt it was finally time to give locums work a try. So she called up Nick.
In October 2018, she started her first locum tenens job at The Ohio State University. It was a four-month assignment that turned into a six-month assignment…that turned into an eight-month assignment. After a planned summer break, she went on to take another position in Ohio.
But then, it was March 2020. The country was already in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic. At first, Lisa thought about taking a break from work, staying near her family and trying to just stay safe in an uncertain situation. As the pandemic unfolded, however, she changed her mind.
“I knew I had a skillset that’s needed, and it wouldn’t be right for me to stay home,” she says. “I thought, ‘I have something to offer, and I feel like I should offer it.’”
Lisa wound up taking three different COVID surge assignments as a locum tenens provider. The first took her to New York Presbyterian in Washington Heights in New York City. After that, she headed across the country to California for two more placements.
When those assignments concluded, she found her short-term assignment in Salem, which has already been extended. She is currently scheduled to work there through the end of the year.
Why the locum lifestyle suits her
The life of a locum tenens nurse practitioner suits Lisa because she likes being in control of her life and her schedule.
“The biggest reasons I chose to go into locums is the idea of being able to tell people when I’m available rather than asking for time off,” she says. “I can say ‘I can work for these months, but I cannot work for those months.’”
For example, after her first locum tenens assignment was extended from four months to eight months, Lisa decided she needed a break. Some rest and relaxation in the Caribbean and Florida, including some scuba diving, could be just the ticket.
Lisa talked to her recruiter and decided to take the summer off. She gathered up her teenage niece and they did some traveling.
“I get to be the cool aunt and take her fun places,” says Lisa.
What would Lisa tell other practitioners who are considering a locum tenens assignment? “You have to be willing to be flexible,” she says.
That advice has suited her well. After all, it’s defined her entire locums experience so far, and will continue to do so.
Lisa doesn’t yet know where her next job will be, but she knows her recruiter will be keeping an eye out for locum tenens assignments that suit her. Lisa and Nick have established a great working relationship, and she knows she can count on him to be upfront about all of the details so she can make the best possible decisions.
STAFF CARE places nurse practitioners, physicians and other advanced practitioners in locum tenens assignments across the U.S.
SEARCH LOCUM NP JOBS or CONTACT US to start pursuing your own locum lifestyle.