Providers

What Working as an Alaska Locum Tenens is Really Like

Alaska is unique in many ways. It’s called “the last frontier” for good reason, and if you practice medicine in the state, especially if you’re working as a locum tenens provider, you’ll want to be prepared for unusual circumstances, delays, weather, and all things unexpected. This is all part of the Alaska lifestyle. In this article, we’ll break down what working as an Alaska locum tenens is really like.

While WMS does place locum providers in some larger cities and clinics in Alaska, most of our opportunities are in remote locations. We’ve made these sites a priority, recognizing that the populations in rural and remote settings are generally underserved and struggle to access good continuity of care.

What Rural Alaskan Communities are Like

Alaska Natives preparing fresh fishMost communities are small; many have just a few hundred residents. Amenities and conveniences that you would expect to find even in small towns in the lower 48 may be non-existent in “the bush” of Alaska.

When WMS places a provider in a rural medical facility, we know we’re sending that person to a unique place. The population in the community may be mostly Alaska Natives with a heritage based on hundreds of years of living in that location.

Life in these settings is reduced to fundamentals: shelter, food, appropriate clothing and gear for the climate, and the local population.

You’ll see traditional customs, native art, and native methods of food preparation on display. Racks of drying fish, collection of local foods harvested from the land, and hunting of caribou, moose, bear, and other big game are all part of everyday life in Alaskan bush communities.

There may be a small market for essential groceries, or you may be sent to a location where the recommendation is to bring your food with you. You may have your own housing, or you may have a private room within the clinic walls.

Travel for Alaska Locum Tenens Assignments

Locum tenens healthcare providers preparing to fly on a small airplaneTravel is different in Alaska too. The commercial carriers that are familiar (Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and United) service larger communities, but to get to your final destination, if you’re going more than one stop in, you’ll almost certainly have to take a ferry, bush plane, or seaplane. That’s because so much of the state is off of the road system. Whether a community is on a far-flung island or surrounded by hundreds of miles of Arctic tundra, outside of the state’s central region, topography rules and roads are rare. It can be difficult to comprehend this until you begin to travel the state and gain first-hand knowledge of the size and challenging locations.

Climate & Weather in Rural Alaska

The climate will almost certainly be extreme in some way, either Arctic or rainforest (although Alaska does have summer weather too). The impact of weather on life in remote locations can’t be overstated. Weather controls the ability to transport people, supplies, labs, medevacs, and any other commodity you can imagine.

Weather can also disrupt communication due to outages. You may have very limited ability to call, communicate via the internet, or pull up medical records. You certainly have to dress for the climate, and you don’t want to use discount store gloves, boots, or other inexpensive gear in Arctic temperatures. If you accept an assignment in the Far North, talk to knowledgeable people about the kind of clothing and gear you’ll need. Be prepared. These can literally be life-and-death decisions.

Entertainment & Technology in Rural Alaska

Entertainment will likely be what you choose to experience in the local community: high school basketball games or wrestling (both very big sports in the state), local festivals, or other community events; hiking, fishing, or exploring the area; and any media you bring yourself such as digital books, movies you’ve downloaded, or hobbies that can be included with your luggage. While some locations may have cable or satellite TV options, it’s best to have low expectations and be prepared to entertain yourself.

Although some modern conveniences exist, even in tiny towns, some level of internet service, phones, and transportation are pretty much everywhere. It’s safe to say that the smaller and more remote the location, the more you’ll be stepping back in time.

At the same time, you’ll see people walking around with cell phones, riding on ATVs, and hearing locals discussing events from around the world just as you would anywhere. The juxtaposition of traditional lifestyle and modern culture and technology is everywhere and can feel surreal when you experience it.

What Providing Healthcare is Like in Rural Alaska

Alaska locum tenens rural healthcare clinicHealthcare will likely be a one-stop shopping opportunity for primary care, dental, and behavioral health (if that’s offered), with all specialty care or hospital-based care requiring patient travel to a larger facility.

As a provider injected into a remote Alaskan medical field, you may be on your own at the community clinic. Or you may have administrative support, medical assistants, and even nursing or other providers on site. We’ll make sure you know the type of medical environment you’ll be in before you commit to an assignment.

One of our priorities at WMS is matching providers to assignments. We wouldn’t ask someone without ER skills to be a solo provider. We always want to ensure that the providers we send are up to the challenge with both training and experience to manage the demands of the practice.

The Basics of Providing Healthcare as an Alaska Locum Tenens

When you’re in remote locations, you want to know what you have to work with, where your next point of care is, and the process for initiating and launching a medevac. Clinics in remote locations should have all this information in place. Usually, at a minimum, you would have an orientation and handoff from the outgoing provider to guide you on the protocols in place for the location. (Although, full disclosure, it can happen that the outgoing provider is leaving on the plane you arrive on, and you get clinic and vehicle keys and a brief run-down as you pass each other at the airstrip.)

The rural clinics have basic equipment and supplies, but for providers coming from the lower 48, especially if you’re coming from an ER setting, you’ll find your resources are much more limited in these settings than what you’re used to. The most important skill to have is the ability to triage, stabilize, and medevac to a higher level of care. Clinics are generally not set up to keep patients overnight (unless you’re holding a patient due to a weather delay in transporting and have no choice).

Keeping a sharp eye on the weather if you have a questionable patient situation may lead to transporting the patient early to avoid complications if the weather closes in. You always have to be thinking ahead of the weather and your resources; what will you do if conditions deteriorate? If you know you can’t manage the next level of care, you don’t want to find yourself confronting that when your opportunity to medevac has passed.

The Three Things You Must Keep in Mind in Remote Medical Settings

There are three paramount things to keep in mind in these remote settings:

  1. First, if a patient is coming into the ER, they already have a health issue or have had an accident or traumatic event of some kind. You being there to see them and care for them is a good thing; certainly better than if there was no care available at all. Doing what you can is always going to be better than nothing, even if you feel what you can do is limited by the resources you have available.
  2. Second, the standard of care in remote locations is not a lower standard, it’s a different standard. It’s not possible to keep a fully supplied and staffed ER in small, isolated communities. The clinics that offer basic care and the fundamental necessities to transport a patient out to a higher-level facility are providing lifesaving services, even if the care seems primitive by big-city ER standards.You won’t have all the labs and imaging available to you in a remote clinic that you would have in a larger facility. You won’t have a wide variety of medications to choose from. You certainly won’t have surgical options available. But you will make a positive difference, just by being there and using the resources you have.
  3. Third, when you work in a remote location, respect the protocols and processes that are in place when you arrive. The people who live and work in the community most likely have reasons for the processes they use and may be aware of factors that aren’t obvious to someone new to the clinic or the area. Be humble and respectful and ask before you assume that your way of doing something is better.

Mary Ellen Doty, FNP, with a fellow locum tenens and health aides. Your technique or process may, in fact, be better, or more cutting-edge. You may have the opportunity to teach a new skill or refine a process. But be thoughtful and diplomatic as you integrate into the existing staff and routines.

Remember, you’re a guest in the community and the clinic, and you’ll be more effective if you keep that in mind. Part of being a successful locum provider is having the ability to be adaptable and likable. You may not always agree with the way things are done, but your task is to do the best you can and treat the patients in your care.

WMS staff will always do what we can to make sure you’re well informed. If you’re considering working in a remote area, like Alaska, we can connect you with a provider who has recently been on-site so you can ask questions, clinician to clinician, without the filter of anyone between.

The Reality of the Rural Alaskan Medical Field

We don’t want to scare anyone away but we do want to make this point: Alaska is for people who like adventure, who can roll with uncertainty and unknowns, and who value experience over comfort and predictability. Make no mistake, remote location healthcare work is not for the faint of heart.

If you’re not comfortable making a diagnosis unless you can run every test possible (remote clinics will have limited lab and imaging capabilities); if you’re not comfortable taking your own vitals and rooming patients (you don’t always have to do this, but in some settings, you may be doing everything); if you’re easily rattled in emergencies (you’ll see everything from sore throats to traumatic injuries and life-threatening acute and chronic conditions), bush communities in Alaska are not going to be a good fit for you.

In some clinics, you might find yourself going at a fast pace all day every day. In others, you might get bored due to low patient volume and low acuity of patient complaints. It’s all part of the variety and the element of “you never know what you’ll get” in rural medical settings. You have to be ready for the Alaska lifestyle to flourish and enjoy being on assignment.

How to Know if Practicing Rural Medicine in Alaska is Right for You

Alaska locum tenens landscape sceneryProviders who combine excellent medical skills with the enjoyment of adventure, exploration, and new experiences will do well.

If you’re confident of your medical skills and yet know your limitations, enjoy meeting people and exploring new locations and cultures, like to travel, and can be flexible when weather or some unexpected event derails your schedule, you’ll fit right in as a provider in remote Alaska!

At WMS, we’re looking for the best of the best. We work with well-rounded providers who are up for a challenge. We get excited when we connect with people who share our love for serving in remote locations. When providers come back from assignments with amazing stories and photos, and are asking when they can go again, we know we’ve found a kindred spirit.

We hope you’ll join us if that sounds like an invitation too good to miss, and let us introduce you to experiences that will give you memories and connections for a lifetime!

 

locum tenens jobs

The Complete Locum Tenens Document Checklist

locum tenens document checklistYou’re ready to make the career jump into working as a locum tenens, but how do you get started? While it might not be much fun, one of the most beneficial things you can do is have your documents ready. In this article, we’ll break down all of the paperwork and documentation you’ll need to jump-start your career as a locum tenens in our Complete Locum Tenens Document Checklist. (Plus, don’t forget to get the download to make it easy to gather everything you need.)

Pro Tip

We recommend scanning your relevant documentation to your computer and/or smartphone and syncing them to an online cloud backup system. You can either scan documents by using most printers or you can use the scanning software on your smartphone (iPhone instructions and Android instructions) to take a quick photo and convert it into a document. Save these files to a well-labeled folder on your computer and/or phone (and online cloud environment like Dropbox or Google Drive) for easy access and update them regularly. Delete the outdated versions off your devices so you always have the most accurate versions to send.

For any files with an expiration date, you can name the file by using that date, so you have an easy method of tracking certifications, licenses, and more that need to be renewed. For instance:

  • John_Doe_PA_professional_license_2024_02_23
  • John_Doe_ATLS_2023_06_14
  • John_Doe_PA_board_cert_2022_12_16

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

It should go without saying that to apply for jobs as a locum tenens, you’re going to need an updated copy of your CV (curriculum vitae). As a professional, it’s important to keep your CV updated, but as a locum tenens, the importance is greater. You’ll likely be taking new positions several times throughout a year as a contracted provider, so including where you’re working and what your duties were at each assignment can be beneficial to showcase your qualifications for upcoming positions.

If you need help with your CV, don’t worry. We wrote an in-depth article about “How to Write a CV for Medical Professionals,” which includes a downloadable template. (Our recruiting team can also assist you with questions you may have about submitting a CV. Reach out for assistance.)

Diploma

Your undergrad and graduate studies diplomas aren’t just meant to be nice documents to frame on a wall. If you’re trying to land locum tenens jobs, we’ll need a copy of your diploma(s) for proof of your educational experience.

If you don’t have a copy of your diploma(s), you should be able to reach out to your college or university to obtain one. You’ll want at least the diploma for your highest level of education or university-level education.

Professional License

To work in any facility within any state, you’ll need to have an up-to-date professional license through the state that you’ll be working in. If you’re a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, as of now, you’ll need multiple licenses to work in more than one state. (Legislation is beginning to take shape in several states to create compacts for NP and PA licenses but hasn’t been enacted as of the time of this writing.)

Physicians, you may qualify for licenses through the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact or IMLCC. If you are not working in qualifying IMLCC states, you will need to obtain licenses for each state you’re working in.

At Wilderness Medical Staffing, we recommend the contracted locum tenens we work with to obtain a license in at least Alaska or Montana since we primarily staff those states.

Certifications

Life-Saving Certifications

As a healthcare provider, you’re probably accustomed to ongoing training to keep your education and skills sharp, plus you need them to keep your medical license. Many of the positions we staff, in specific, require providers to at least have certifications in BLS, ACLS, and PALS.

For providers who specialize in emergency medicine, we recommend acquiring a certification in ATLS, CALS, or ALSO. Many of our providers also take Emergency Medicine Bootcamp courses, Advanced Airway Course offered by Avera Corp., and Neonatal Resuscitation Program.

You can learn more about all the courses we recommend acquiring certifications for here. Once you have the certifications, you’ll want to keep a copy of them with the rest of your documents.

Board Certifications

In addition to any certifications from courses you’ve completed and passed, you’ll also need to have a record of your board certifications, proving that you’re an expert within your specialty. Depending on your formal education, your board certification will be acquired through various organizations based on if you are a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or physician and your specialty.

The following are organizations that we typically see providers acquire their board certifications through:

Physician Assistant Board Certifications
National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)

Nurse Practitioner Certifications
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
American Nurses Credentialing Center

Physician Certifications
The American Board of Emergency Medicine
American Board of Internal Medicine

Immunization Records

locum tenens document checklist vaccine cardSince you’ll be working in healthcare facilities, many of them require proof of vaccinations. Keeping a copy of your most recent immunization records can help you to land locum tenens assignments. If you don’t have a copy, reach out to your healthcare provider to get one, or read this article about tracking down your vaccine records.

Even if facilities don’t require full vaccination records, you will likely need to provide a copy of your COVID vaccine card. While we don’t mandate that providers are fully vaccinated, if you are not vaccinated, you may not be able to apply for certain positions as we follow the vaccine guidelines that our clients have in place.

DEA Registration

You’ll also need proof of your valid DEA registration. Providers may only administer, dispense, or prescribe a controlled substance in a state if they hold a DEA registration in that state, and are complying with all federal and state laws and regulations. In other words, you’ll need a DEA certificate that displays an address in the state you’ll be administering controlled substances.

For providers who regularly work in multiple states, we recommend obtaining a DEA license for each state that you will work in. This can be especially helpful for locum tenens providers who may bounce around from state to state for their assignments.

Another option is to change the address on your existing DEA prior to going on assignment. This is a simple and free process that you can do online. You’ll simply change the address back at the end of your assignment.

Please note, the status of your DEA must be Fee Paid; it cannot be Fee Exempt.

Business License

As a locum tenens, you’re a contracted medical professional with the agency (or agencies) that you work with. This means that you’ll need to register in your primary state of legal residence as a business owner (typically a 1099 contractor) in most cases.

How you go about doing this will differ from state to state, and what the documentation is called can also differ.

For instance, in Montana, you’ll need an ICEC (Independent Contractor Exemption Certificate). In Alaska and Washington, you’ll need a business license.

Identification

locum tenens document checklist identificationThis should go without saying, but you’ll need to keep an up-to-date piece of legal identification on you with a copy that you can send as proof of identification.

Common types of identification include your driver’s license, passport, or military ID card. We recommend having a digital copy of all your forms of identification, as well. You never know when you might need them to look up an identification number or other information.

References List

While the facility you are hoping to work at might not require a list of references, we will ask you for them as part of our provider onboarding process. Providers who work with Wilderness Medical Staffing cannot work for our clients until they have been vetted through a reference check, among other criteria. Other staffing agencies may have a different approach to references.

Keeping an up-to-date list of references will help you through the onboarding process so you can get on assignment. Remember to always ask your references if they are willing to be a reference for you.

Additional Considerations

Health Insurance Information

While you won’t need health insurance information to get a locum tenens job, when you’re on assignment, you’re going to want to have your health insurance coverage documentation. As a locum tenens, you are an independent contractor, which means we will not provide health insurance for you. You’ll need to find health insurance through a healthcare exchange, a significant other, COBRA, or other methods of obtaining private healthcare.

Just in case you’re the one needing medical attention while on assignment, you’ll have your health insurance information on hand.

NPI Number

As a healthcare provider, you will be issued an NPI number. You’ll need this number for several of the documents mentioned above, so be sure to have it memorized or save it somewhere safe that’s easily accessible.

Credentialing

Keeping easily accessible records of all your documents can also make the credentialing process much easier as a locum tenens. You will need to be credentialed through most facilities you’ll work at.

Conclusion

We know that gathering all these documents can be an arduous process. However, the more organized you are with keeping your files updated, the easier it will be for you to qualify for assignments, get through credentialing, and be on your way to locum tenens placements.

Learn more about locum tenens

How to Stay Connected as a Locum Tenens in Alaska

If you’re considering working locum tenens assignments in Alaska, get excited to embark on one of the biggest adventures of your life! Alaska is known for its splendor of sights, an abundance of animals, and wide-open spaces. For healthcare providers who truly want to experience some of Alaska’s most beautiful landscapes, rural Alaska locum tenens positions can be an opportunity not to be missed. Providers who take on the challenge of working in the last frontier state may find that one of their biggest challenges is a lack of technology. In this article, we’ll cover our top suggestions for how to stay connected as a locum tenens in Alaska.

Alaska – What to Know

stay connected as locum tenensYou may not be able to appropriately gauge the size of Alaska from a map, but Alaska is a huge state. The largest state in the United States, Alaska is larger than California, Montana, and Texas combined. The sheer size of Alaska makes telecommunication infrastructure difficult to build and maintain.

The majority of Alaska is also non-inhabited by people, often hundreds of miles from one populated area to another. When it comes to the comforts of technology, adapting to what’s available in Alaska may be part of the adventure for healthcare providers.

WiFi Access

While healthcare facilities should have internet, it may be slower than what you’re used to. Many areas are limited to having one internet provider available. Reliable, high-speed internet in Alaska may remind you of the preschool adage, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.” Internet may be on-site but you could be greeted with the reality of slower load times and less trusted coverage than what you’re used to in the lower 48.

You may find that your housing has limited or no internet access. If you’re working with Wilderness Medical Staffing, we’ll provide you with as much information as we can about internet expectations while on assignment.

Additional WiFi

If your assignment takes you to a slightly more populated region, you may be able to join public WiFi via libraries or spaces with shared internet access. If you’re working in a small village, accessing the internet may prove to be difficult.

Mobile Phones

While you likely have a phone plan through AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile in the contiguous United States, those providers are less popular in Alaska, and most of the time you won’t be able to get coverage using them. If you can get coverage, it’ll sometimes be considered roaming, so be careful and do some research with your mobile provider before heading out on assignment.

Instead, you’ll likely want to get a GCI phone or GCI SIM card while working in Alaska. GCI provides the most coverage in Alaska and offers pre-paid phone plans so you can have access to make calls for a reasonable amount.

The pre-paid plans also come with mobile hotspot access, but you’ll want to understand your plan details so you know what the parameters of usage are.

Prep Your Devices Before Traveling

If you know you’ll be in an area with spotty or limited access to the internet, you can prep your devices ahead of time. First, be sure to pack charging cables, so you can still utilize electronics sans internet. Even without internet access, you can still do plenty of things on computers, tablets, and phones.

  • Download playlists of your favorite songs and podcasts so you’re able to play them offline.
  • Download shows and movies from video streaming services so you can watch them during travel and when you arrive at your destination.
  • Install games you like to play on your devices. Many games do not require online access, but can still be entertaining to play. Your devices may come equipped with some, but making sure you have a few favorites will help you to occupy your time while off of work shifts.
  • Use additional programs that you typically don’t use. For instance, test out photo or video programs that come with your devices to keep memories of your time on assignment.
  • Use your computer for writing. If you enjoy writing, being disconnected from the internet can be a great time to sit down and spend some time writing. Whether you decide to keep diary entries of your days while on assignment or start writing that novel you’ve had on your bucket list for a while, getting use out of your electronics without the internet can have its advantages.

What To Do Without the Internet

Believe it or not, you may enjoy the break from the web and might take it as an opportunity to disconnect and tap into more of the adventure during your assignment. Especially in Alaska, outdoor activities are plentiful! You’ll need to plan ahead since the weather in Alaska can change on a dime and can be much colder than what you’re used to in the rest of the United States.

Get to Know the Community

stay connected as a locum tenensMany rural areas in Alaska are home to the small communities you’ll be serving as a medical provider. These communities often have rich histories going back generations living in these areas.

We get feedback often from providers sharing about their experience working with the communities and becoming part of the community while they are a visitor to the area. Our providers have enjoyed outdoor activities, ceremonies, celebrating holiday festivities, and being welcomed into the homes and lives of community members.

Community members are often more than temporary neighbors of tourists; providers sometimes become more like “chosen family” within the villages and rural areas of Alaska.

Explore the Outdoors

stay connected as locum tenensThe great outdoors of Alaska is vast and often stunning. Many healthcare providers take advantage of the locations where they are working to get outside. Hiking, fishing, and hunting are favorite pastimes of many providers, but you’ll want to learn about the area before you head out.

Be sure you have bear spray! Wildlife is abundant in Alaska and providers commonly send us photos of bears, moose, foxes, and other wildlife. Some healthcare facilities even keep bear spray on-site, to keep people safe when leaving the facilities!

Enjoy Your Breaks

While your primary reason for visiting Alaska is providing medical care to communities, you’ll still get time to rest during your assignment (dependent upon your contracted schedule), just like you would any other job. Settle into the area and enjoy a slower pace during your breaks watching the scenery or slowly enjoying a cup of coffee.

Since your house likely has a TV and a way to play movies, you can also relax by watching movies the old-fashioned way, by putting them into a DVD or VHS player!

Experiencing the wonders of Alaska is often the reason why healthcare providers return to Alaska over and over again for their locum tenens assignments. With a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you can stay connected, but still enjoy the splendor of the state without being online 24/7.

Are you ready to get started working in Alaska? Contact our team to learn more!

Now Staffing Locum and Permanent Positions

Unusual Items to Pack for Locum Tenens Assignments

The following article was written by Sheila Gibson, WMS account executive. Sheila has extensive knowledge of traveling back and forth between Washington State and rural Alaska, as her husband, Dr. Gibson, was a long-time physician in a rural Alaskan health center, while her family lived in the lower 48.

So, you’re going on a locum assignment and beginning to think about packing. Beyond the obvious need for clothing and personal items, what else should you include? Most assignments run one or more weeks, so you’ll have a mix of workdays and time off. Read on for our suggestions, and more tips on unusual items to pack for locum tenens assignments.

What You’ll Know Ahead of Time

Before starting an assignment, in our facility descriptions with Wilderness Medical Staffing, we have a list of the amenities you can expect at each location, and we share those with providers when assignments are coordinated.

For instance, at a few locations, food is provided as the site is a closed-campus commercial facility. For most of our assignments, the provider would be responsible for supplying their own food. Details such as type of housing (private or shared dorm-style, for example), food options, the opportunity for family to be accommodated, etc. are in our facility notes, and we update any time we’re informed of changes.

The key to being prepared for your assignment, right down to the details of what to pack, is good communication with either your account executive and/or a WMS provider who recently worked at the same facility.

If you’re working with a different staffing agency than WMS, they will likely have similar information for you. If they don’t, be sure to ask about it!

Driving vs. Flying to a Locum Tenens Assignment

WMS places providers at facilities in Alaska, Montana, Washington, Wyoming, and Idaho. While most of our providers fly to their assignments, some drive. If you’re driving, then packing becomes much easier as you don’t have to be concerned with checking bags, weight allowances, managing perishable foods over long travel times, and restrictions or regulations around items that can be tricky to pack for flights.

For example, if you’re packing oversize items, such as fishing rods, to take advantage of the fishing season where you’ll be working, it could get expensive to take your fishing gear on a seaplane or bush plane. If you’re going to be on assignment for several weeks, taking food with you could put you over the weight limit for small planes, and incur excess baggage fees.

Providers who are driving have control over all these situations and can add comforts from home without having to factor in weight and size restrictions, or possibility that luggage goes astray, and perishable foods perish if there’s a lengthy delay getting to your destination.

That said, even for providers who are driving, it’s worth your time to know what extras would be helpful to pack, and what would be redundant or unnecessary.

If you’re driving, consider the time of year and your route, and if the area is remote, research gas stations and locations for assistance. Winter storms and summer flooding have made for some interesting road trips!

Unusual Items to Consider Packing

Outdoor Clothing/Equipment

  • Outdoor clothing/gear (small backpack, hat, etc.)
  • Bear spray
  • Fishing gear

To get the most out of your time on assignment, many providers pack with the outdoors in mind. If you plan to get outdoors for hiking and exploring, you’ll want outdoor clothing and gear, including bear spray. Keep in mind that you will probably need to buy the bear spray locally unless you’re driving.

Many providers enjoy fishing while on assignment, but you’ll need to have a license so be sure you know the local rules and how to obtain a license for your assignment location.

Also, learn about the weather for the season of the year and plan accordingly.

Kitchen Items

  • unusual items to pack for locum tenensSmall personal blender
  • French press/Pour over coffee maker
  • Favorite knife
  • Spices and seasonings

Having necessities in the kitchen can make a huge difference in settling into a new environment. From healthy options to items of convenience, you’ll want to make sure to pack items like these.

Do you start each day with a smoothie? Taking a small personal blender can be a lifesaver as locum kitchens will likely not have this. If you’re a coffee lover and prefer a French press or pour-over set up, you may want to bring them along. Locum apartments do not typically have specialty equipment like this, so it’s best to bring your own small versions of these items if this is important to your morning.

And even though you can’t take your home kitchen with you, if you have a favorite knife or choice of spices or seasonings, you’ll be glad you brought them along.

If you need help with stocking up on some kitchen essentials, camping supply/outdoor equipment stores are great places to pick up small versions of kitchen tools or appliances, as well as hiking gear and other equipment that would be useful in remote settings.

Health Equipment

  • Workout attire
  • Fitness Bands
  • Additional small workout equipment

You can also check with your WMS account executive to see if the community or facility have a fitness center or pool. If you want to work out and the community doesn’t have a fitness center, consider taking resistance bands or other small equipment that’s reasonable to pack.

Hobby Items

  • Camera
  • Hobby supplies or craft projects small enough to be practical to pack

Sometimes, being in a rural or remote area is the perfect setting to carve out some time to get back to your hobbies. If you’re a photographer, be sure to pack your extra camera in addition to your phone for photos.

If the weather is bad, you may find yourself stuck inside for long periods, so it’s good to have something to do! A provider recently told me she was making her second knitted hat when she had been delayed for several days getting to her assignment. You could also consider bringing small puzzles or decks of cards to occupy some time indoors.

Sleeping Items

  • unusual items to pack for locum tenensC-PAP
  • Mouthguards
  • White noise machine
  • Earplugs
  • Clean linens

Adjusting to sleeping in a new location can always take some time and these communities are counting on healthcare providers to be there when they need them. Having some of your nighttime comforts can help you feel refreshed and ready to take on your assignment.

If you need a C-PAP or other medical devices, like mouth guards, add them to your packing list. Many people like to sleep with a “white noise” machine, which can be nice to have, especially in the quiet of a rural location. On the flip side, if howling animals could wake you up at night, don’t forget some earplugs to drown out any unwanted noise.

While you can expect that linens will be clean, they likely will be very basic. If you like high thread-count sheets or a specific type of pillow, you should probably bring your own.

Hygiene Items

  • Electric toothbrush
  • Towels

While most locations will provide towels, if you have a favorite kind that you’d prefer to use, feel free to pack a few to get you through the week. If you use things like electric toothbrushes, don’t forget the toothbrush and a charger. Depending on the length of assignment, you may want a few extra brush heads too.

Food Items

We mentioned this before on our food blog post: if you follow a strict diet or require specific items for your diet, or even just prefer a special brand of coffee, tea, etc., you should probably bring those foods with you as small markets in remote locations may not have what you need.

These are some of the easiest items to pack or ship ahead of time so you have some staple food when you get to your assignment.

  • Pouches of salmon and tuna
  • Canned chicken
  • Nuts, raisins, nut bars, granola bars, and other dried fruits
  • Beef jerky
  • Freeze-dried fruits and veggies
  • Sturdy crackers, nut butters, hard cheeses
  • “Just add water” noodles or standard boxed meal options
  • Rice or pasta (double bag so you don’t end up with rice all over your suitcase or tub)
  • Soups, dried or canned (although canned soups will add more weight)

Amazon and other online sites ship all over the U.S. and offer an array of pantry items. With enough lead time, and depending on the location, online ordering is a great way to supplement your supplies. If you’re ordering from an online site before you’re physically at your locum assignment, verify the ship-to address with the facility contact (or your account executive can do this for you.) Especially for remote locations, don’t just assume you can use the facility address for shipping. The local staff can tell you if there are variables to be aware of for shipping to their location.

The other reason to carry-on a bag with food is that sometimes you’ll find yourself arriving after the local market has closed, on a holiday, or in the middle of a storm and you won’t be able to get to the grocery right away. If you’re lucky, the previous provider will have left some pantry items in your lodging, but you can’t count on that. It’s always best if you can provide for yourself in a pinch, at least for a day or two. Some providers will pack enough food for a few days in their carry-on luggage when flying just in case!

Legal Identification & Money

When you travel, accidents happen. You lose things, or perhaps someone has stolen your purse or wallet. Frustrating, but it happens! Have at least two forms of government ID that are accepted for travel, so if you lose one, you have a backup. You’ll need to store these in two separate secure spaces, one in a wallet, purse, or backpack, and your spare in another place. I’ve only needed my backup ID once, but it saved the day when I was able to pull out my second document and navigate through security to board my flight.

When you update your driver’s license, if your state offers a separate state ID option, request that at the same time. In my state, this is a card that looks very similar to a driver’s license and can be used to navigate airport security. The same is true for US passports and passport cards. The passport card can be purchased when you order a passport for a small additional fee, and there are some restrictions on where you can use the passport card, but it’s still quite helpful to have as a second ID.

If possible, keep at least two credit cards on you when you’re traveling, stored in separate bags/locations, or you may want to keep a debit card and a credit card for more flexibility. The other financial advice I’d offer is to keep some cash with you, in small bills. Cash comes in handy for tipping, small purchases, or to cover a bill when credit card processing is down, there’s no ATM in sight, or you’re in a cash-only place of business. You may encounter all of these scenarios in rural and remote locations. Redundancy is your friend and can save you from some very awkward situations.

As a recap, here’s what to pack:

  • Two forms of government ID
  • Optional additional state ID option or passport card
  • Multiple credit cards or credit/debit cards
  • Cash in small bills

Consider doing this for anything critical for you to have, and also easy to divide or duplicate so you’re still ok even if a bag is lost or stolen along the way.

Extras

  • Maps
  • Entertainment
  • Don’t forget prescription medications!

While maps may seem like a primitive form of navigating, if the area where you’ll be working in is in a remote location, you’ll likely lose your cell signal when you leave the community. This is especially true if you plan to go hiking or exploring. Be sure to have a printed map with you if you’re going into the backcountry! If you’re driving to a remote location, be sure you make a screenshot of the directions in case you lose your navigation app if you lose cell coverage.

You’ll also want to think ahead about entertainment. Do you have access to streaming internet service and/or digital books? You’ll want to download anything you may want in advance in case internet speeds are slow, which is often the case in remote areas.

Think through your daily routine from start to finish, making notes about any items that you consider “essential” to personal care or comfort. If some small devices or items make sense to pack, bring them along!

Traveling with Storage Totes

Large storage totes may be your new best friend. These tips should get you well on your way to using storage totes as a primary packing and travel tool.

Flying with Storage Totes

Did you know you can pack and check Rubbermaid (or other brands) tubs on flights? (I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Rubbermaid tub on the baggage carousel. I didn’t know airlines would accept containers like that as checked luggage, but they accept many unconventional items. I’ve seen tires, boxes of diapers, Costco-size packs of toilet paper, and similar items in checked baggage in Alaska.)

Make sure your tubs aren’t over the weight allowance when you fill them, use packing tape or duct tape to secure the lid to the tub, label with name and address, and off you go! Tubs are great for food and equipment, and you can use them to leave items behind if you plan to return to the same location. Most facilities will allow providers to leave a small stash of personal goods if you’re returning for future assignments; just ask.

Shipping Storage Totes & Luggage

You can also mail Rubbermaid tubs to your location. Ask your account executive or a contact at the healthcare facility where you’ll be working if you can ship to the clinic address. Mailing ahead is a great way to get items to your location without having to navigate airline restrictions.

You can also mail luggage if you have enough lead time. Check with the USPS for best estimates in the length of time required to mail to your location and any other “need to know” updates.

Additional Items to Check at the Airport

Checking coolers and fish boxes/heavy-duty cardboard boxes on flights is also allowed. Just make sure the cooler or box is securely closed with duct tape or other means. You don’t want your container coming open en route! And always check with your airline on size and weight restrictions for non-luggage containers you plan to check.

Additional Helpful Tips for Trip Planning

Go Thrift Shopping

If you’re planning to leave some items behind at an assignment, because you plan to return to that location, Goodwill or thrift stores are good places to find inexpensive items. You may be able to stock up on some gently used kitchen supplies, small workout equipment, or other items that will make living remotely feel a little more like home.

unusual items to pack for locum tenensInvest in Wheeled Luggage

If you don’t have wheeled luggage, invest in some! You’ll thank yourself when you’re strolling through the airport with ease, rather than struggling with a bag that you have to carry!

Coolers come with wheels too, so if you’re packing food in a cooler, make sure that’s wheeled as well as your luggage.

Know TSA’s Allowed and Disallowed Items

While you may be tempted to bring your entire house, including the kitchen sink, especially when flying, you’ll have restrictions.

Remember, TSA restricts liquids and pastes (think peanut butter) on flights, but most other foods are allowed through security. You can check TSA’s site for detailed answers on carry-on restrictions for food and other items.

Prepare Ahead for Travel Disruptions

With the recent disruptions to flights and travel in general, whether from weather issues or staff shortages, etc., you should plan to carry on enough basics that you can get by should your luggage be delayed or lost.

While most lost luggage eventually finds the traveler, if you’re going to a remote location, you might find yourself in difficulty if you check everything for your trip.

One of our very experienced providers says he always packs 1-3 days of simple food in his carry-on bag, as well as enough clothing and essentials so lost luggage won’t create a problem.

Be sure to include prescription medications and other “must have” items in your carry-on bag.

Conclusion

This is just a starting point for ideas to consider as you prep for your locum adventure.

There’s a wealth of information online! Check out travel and camping blogs for ideas on food prep, storage, and packing hacks. Facebook pages for the community you’ll be visiting can bring you up to speed on local doings.

Definitely check with providers who’ve been to the same site. Your account executive can connect you with others who will be able to give you up-to-the-minute details on lodging, food options, restaurants, recreation, etc.

And once you’ve been on assignment, particularly if the location is remote, we’d love to have your feedback to pass on to others. We learn so much from our providers, and we like to keep the cycle going. Send us photos, lists of what you found helpful, or anything else you’d share with someone coming behind you.

Also, if you have any great packing tips or equipment recommendations, please send those along too! We love sharing the innovative ideas our providers have found to make life easier.

Have fun out there, and just like the Scouts, be prepared!

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Medical Courses For Rural Locum Tenens

At Wilderness Medical Staffing, the locum tenens providers who we work with provide medical care in some of the most remote places in the United States. Many of the sites we staff require providers to be solo-capable, as you could be the only healthcare provider within several hundreds of miles. To perform your job to the best of your abilities, here are the medical courses for rural locum tenens that we’d recommend providers take. Upon successful completion of most of these courses, you’ll earn a certification which you can add to your CV and keep as part of your file.

Clinical Certifications

Not every assignment requires emergency certifications. Some of the assignments we staff are in a clinical setting at primary care clinics or school-based clinics. For these assignments, we recommend a few courses which will add to your clinical experience.

BLS – Basic Life Support

Presented by: American Heart Association
Certificate valid for: 2 years

The American Heart Association’s Basic Life Support course is probably the most basic (yet very important) course that a provider can take. It’s assumed that as a healthcare professional, you will have a BLS certification, but you need to ensure it is up-to-date.

Basic Life Support teaches the following according to the American Heart Association website:

  • Basics include CPR for adults, children, and adults.
  • Early access, early basic CPR, early defibrillation, and early ACLS, also known as the AHA Chain of Survival.
  • Important early use of AED (automated external defibrillator).
  • Effective ventilations of using a barrier device and the importance of teams in multirescuer resuscitation and performance
  • Relief of foreign-body airway obstruction (choking) for adults and infants

Learn more BLS here.

ACLS – Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support

Presented by: American Heart Association
Certificate valid for: 2 years

medical courses for rural locum tenensACLS builds on the skills learned in the BLS courses certified by the American Heart Association. In our experience, we’ve found that most clinics and all hospitals require that providers have an up-to-date ACLS certification. To work on any assignment with Wilderness Medical Staffing, we require providers to have a valid ACLS certification. According to the AHA, this course is intended for healthcare professionals who either direct or participate in the management of cardiopulmonary arrest or other cardiovascular emergencies and for personnel in emergency response.

ACLS teaches the following according to the American Heart Association website:

  • Basic life support skills, including effective chest compressions, use of a bag-mask device, and use of an AED
  • Recognition and early management of respiratory and cardiac arrest• Recognition and early management of peri-arrest conditions such as symptomatic bradycardia
  • Airway management
  • Related pharmacology
  • Management of ACS and stroke
  • Effective communication as a member and leader of a resuscitation team

Learn more ACLS here.

PALS – Pediatric Advanced Support

Presented by: American Heart Association
Certificate valid for: 2 years

PALS is intended for healthcare providers who respond to emergencies in infants and children and for personnel in emergency response, emergency medicine, intensive care, and critical care units. Like ACLS, many clinics and all hospitals require PALS. WMS encourages providers to have an up-to-date PALS certification.

PALS teaches the following according to the American Heart Association website:

  • Perform high-quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) per American Heart Association (AHA) basic life support (BLS) recommendations
  • Differentiate between patients who do and do not require immediate intervention
  • Recognize cardiopulmonary arrest early and begin CPR within 10 seconds
  • Apply team dynamics
  • Differentiate between respiratory distress and failure
  • Perform early interventions for respiratory distress and failure
  • Differentiate between compensated and decompensated (hypotensive) shock
  • Perform early interventions for the treatment of shock
  • Differentiate between unstable and stable patients with arrhythmias
  • Describe clinical characteristics of instability in patients with arrhythmias
  • Implement post-cardiac arrest management

Learn more about PALS here.

Emergency Medicine Certifications

In addition to having the clinical certifications mentioned above, to stand out as a qualified provider with Wilderness Medical Staffing, we also encourage providers to obtain various emergency medicine certifications for many of the positions we staff. Most of our emergency medicine openings require two years of EM experience along with ATLS. If you want to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for the austere environment of many of our assignments, obtaining certifications in CALS, ER Bootcamp, and the Advanced Airway Course is beneficial.

ATLS – Advanced Trauma Life Support

medical courses for rural locum tenens

Presented by: American College of Surgeons
Certificate valid for: 4 years

ATLS is an intensive training course that we highly recommend WMS locum tenens providers take. You must pass a written test before you’re allowed to test your knowledge in a hands-on environment. All critical access hospitals (CAH) in Montana require an ATLS certification to work on assignments, which is why we advocate heavily for providers to gain this certification.

According to the American College of Surgeons, ATLS “presents a concise approach to assessing and managing multiply injured patients. The course presents doctors and other qualified healthcare providers with knowledge and techniques that are comprehensive and easily adapted to fit their needs.”

The ATLS course teaches the following according to the American College of Surgeons:

  • Assess the patient’s condition rapidly and accurately
  • Resuscitate and stabilize the patient according to priority
  • Determine if the patient’s needs exceed a facility’s capacity
  • Arrange appropriately for the patient’s inter-hospital transfer (who, what, when, and how)
  • Assure that optimum care is provided and that the level of care does not deteriorate at any point during the evaluation, resuscitation, or transfer process

Wilderness Medical Staffing hosts ATLS courses in Washington State once a year. Learn about upcoming courses.

Learn more about ATLS here.

CALS – Comprehensive Advanced Life Support

Presented by: Rural Emergency Medical Education
Certificate valid for: 2 years

The CALS certification is a Minnesota-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, specifically designed for medical providers who are working in rural, remote, and global emergency departments. CALS is taught through interactive sessions in cardiac, traumatic, pediatric, obstetrical, neonatal, and medical advanced life support.

Courses are offered in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Montana.

The CALS course teaches the following according to Rural Emergency Medical Education:

  • Demonstrate the ability to problem solve in a variety of clinical situations
  • Identify key threats and demonstrate therapeutic interventions.
  • Discuss the roles of each team member involved in patient evaluation and treatment.
  • Perform skills consistent with the provider’s role on the advanced life support team.
  • Prerequisites: It is recommended that participants have attended at least one other advanced life support course, be knowledgeable of cardiac rhythm recognition, and have adequate clinical experience in critical situations.

Learn more about CALS here.

Emergency Medicine Bootcamp

Presented by: Center for Medical Education
CME Credits Available

Emergency Medicine Bootcamp is taught by a faculty of award-winning emergency medicine educators to teach participants the essential information needed to practice medicine in emergency departments or urgent care centers. This course comes highly recommended by our WMS founder and Chief Medical Officer, Mary Ellen Doty.

This 3.5 day course is hosted twice a year in Las Vegas, NV, with courses in July and December. EM Bootcamp serves as a refresher course for experienced emergency room providers and gives newer providers a comprehensive overview of the various medical scenarios that may come into an emergency room.

Emergency Medicine Bootcamp teaches the following according to The Center for Medical Education:

  • Incorporate strategies into practice to reduce the likelihood of misdiagnosis in common emergencies
  • Identify historical, physical and testing strategies to consistently provide evidence-based care to a large variety of ED and urgent care patients
  • Enhance clinical skills with regard to the day-to-day care of emergency department and urgent care patients
  • Enhance clinical skills for the delivery of care to patients with emergent or urgent complaints in a variety of ambulatory care settings

Learn more about Emergency Medicine Bootcamp here.

Advanced Airway Course

Presented by: Avera Corp.

The Advanced Airway Course is held once a year in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in May.

This is the only national CME program that teaches an evidence-based, algorithmic approach to emergency airway management. This is a very hands-on course with a detailed education about getting an airway established in the case of trauma or severe illness.

Learn more about the Advanced Airway Course here.

ALSO – Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics

Presented by: American Academy of Family Physicians
Certificate valid for: 3 years

The ALSO Provider Course is a “team-based approach to learning designed to teach healthcare providers how to improve patient safety and positively impact maternal outcomes with an online and live component.” This course is recommended for providers working rurally and remotely who may have to deliver a baby. WMS has clients who require providers to hold an ALSO certification to work at the facility.

The ALSO Provider Course covers the following topics including:

  • Safety in Maternity Care (lecture presented at the live course)
  • Late Pregnancy Bleeding
  • Preterm Labor and Premature Rupture of Membranes
  • Intrapartum Fetal Surveillance
  • Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy*
  • Labor Dystocia
  • Malpresentations, Malpositions and Multiple Gestation*
  • Assisted Vaginal Delivery*
  • Shoulder Dystocia*
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage*
  • Maternal Resuscitation and Trauma*
  • Cardiac Complications of Pregnancy
  • Venous Thromboembolism in Pregnancy
  • Maternal Sepsis

Learn more about ALSO here.

Neonatal Resuscitation Program

Presented by: American Academy of Pediatrics
Certificate valid for: 2 years

The Neonatal Resuscitation Program is a life-saving course for newborns immediately after birth. According to the AAP, “The Neonatal Resuscitation Program® (NRP®) course conveys an evidence-based approach to care of the newborn at birth and facilitates effective team-based care for healthcare professionals who care for newborns at the time of delivery.”

Learn more about the Neonatal Resuscitation Program.

Do you have questions about what courses would be the best to take based on your skills and professional experience? Contact us for more information.

locum tenens jobs

 

Your Guide to Rural Locum Tenens Travel

If you’re considering working as a locum tenens healthcare provider, you may have questions about travel. From how it gets booked to who pays for it and what happens if something goes wrong, travel could be a make-or-break consideration for which staffing agency you work with or which assignments you take. In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about rural locum tenens travel with Wilderness Medical Staffing.

About Traveling as a Locum Tenens

One of the main reasons people get into locum tenens work is because they crave a different lifestyle and want to have opportunities to travel. Different staffing agencies will staff assignments in different areas, so as a healthcare provider, you’ll want to work with an agency that staffs locations you’d like to travel to.

At Wilderness Medical Staffing, we specialize in staffing rural and remote facilities in the Northwest United States and Alaska. For healthcare providers that want real adventures, these types of locations are full of them! Many times, travel is where the adventure begins!

Rural locum tenens travel can often be a more intricate feat than traveling to urban areas. There aren’t straight flights to many of the islands in Alaska, for starters. Sometimes getting to your assignment takes a bit of creativity and patience, but it’ll be worth it when you are able to help these communities in need!

Who Pays for Travel?

Healthcare professionals often want to know who pays for your travel. Ultimately, the client will pay for your travel. However, it will likely be paid for initially by the staffing agency that is booking it.

If you’re not working with Wilderness Medical Staffing, you’ll want to talk with your staffing agency (or if you’re not using an agency, the healthcare facility) about who foots the bill for travel expenses and what’s included.

Who Reserves the Travel Reservations?

While this may differ from agency to agency, at Wilderness Medical Staffing, we’ll take care of all your travel arrangements. We work with a travel agency to book your specific travel needs after collecting all relevant information from you. We’ll coordinate with you on approving the specific travel suggested, including airfare, car rentals, and hotels (when needed).

Clients will typically not book travel for providers (although there are exceptions), but they may supply you with additional modes of transportation upon arrival to an assignment. We’ll talk more about that later in this article.

What Airline Class Will I Travel?

Locum Tenens Travel for Rural AssignmentsWe can’t speak for every staffing agency, but our providers will travel economy class. If you would prefer to travel business or first class, we will deposit the price of the economy ticket into your account, so you can book your upgraded flight. This may be a circumstance where you, as the provider, will pay a portion of the travel expenses.

What About Car Rentals?

We will also book your car rental for you through a reputable car rental company under your name. Rental car travel will be reimbursed by us when working with Wilderness Medical Staffing. This may differ from other staffing agencies.

Not every rural locum tenens travel assignment requires a car rental. For instance, if your assignment is on a small, remote island in Alaska, the medical facility will likely provide a vehicle if you need to get around the village.

Due to many of our assignments requiring travel through mountain passes or in wintry conditions, we make every attempt to rent 4-wheel drive vehicles that will be safe to drive to your assignment, when driving is the best mode of transportation to reach your destination.

You may also want to talk to your car insurance agency to make sure that you have any necessary insurance policies just in case you’re in an accident. While most personal policies will also cover the driver if they are renting a vehicle, it’s always a good idea to be proactive to make sure that you have coverage if you need it. You can also check with your credit card company, as they will sometimes have rental car coverage, as well.

Other Modes of Transportation

Keeping in mind that our providers sometimes work in extremely remote and rural locations, cars and planes aren’t always the only modes of travel! To reach your destination, or sometimes patients, you may travel via boat, ferry, helicopter, or snowmachine (snowmobile). Sometimes, the fastest way for our providers to travel in Alaska is via dog sled! (Our providers can get quite an adventure out of their assignments!)

In the winter in Alaska, to travel to certain destinations, providers are required to bring Arctic gear on flights due to the extremely cold weather in those locations.

What to Pack for Rural Locum Tenens Travel

Packing for locum tenens assignments in rural and remote areas of the Northwest and Alaska is a little different than putting your swimsuit in a suitcase and heading to the beach. While you may find assignments oceanside – warm, sunny beaches are likely several hundreds of miles south of where you’ll be working.

For our Alaska assignments, in specific, we’ve created an in-depth packing list. Many of the packing tips apply to the other states we staff, as well. To keep it simple, here’s what you’ll need to bring:

Work Clothes

The type of clothes will depend on the location and you can always talk to your account executive about the dress code of the facility you’ll be working at. In general, you’ll want to bring a couple of pairs of scrubs and business casual clothing. Due to the rural nature of our assignments, some providers wear clothing that looks nice, but that will also double as outdoor-ready attire, for ease of moving and adaptability.

Casual Clothing

You’ll also want to make sure you pack enough recreational clothing to get you through your days off work. We recommend packing in removable layers, so you’re prepared for whatever type of weather you may encounter. For jobs in Alaska, you may be required to pack Arctic gear to safely travel to and from assignments.

Clothing Basics

Locum Tenens Travel for Rural AssignmentsIn addition, you need to remember the typical packing necessities: undergarments, a few comfortable shoe options, and seasonal gear such as hats or gloves (or even swimsuits depending on the season). We also recommend investing in some basic weather gear including water-resistant socks and jackets for rural locum tenens travel.

Electronics to Bring for Rural Locum Tenens Travel

Not only do most people rely on their mobile devices, but when traveling, you’ll want to make sure to have a mobile phone and a backup charger and charging cables. Many providers like to take a laptop with them for entertainment and personal use when not working. We recommend downloading content (shows, movies, books, podcasts, music) in case the internet speed is slower than what you’re used to at home. The facility you work at will have computers for business use.

Don’t forget headphones or earbuds, as well. Not only are they nice to have if you’re flying, but they can be useful while on assignment. For providers working in Alaska, you may want to look into getting a GCI phone, which can provide better calling service throughout your assignment. If your assignment location doesn’t have typical cell phone carrier availability, we’ll communicate that with you, so you can prepare with a GCI phone.

Traveling with Food

Food prep isn’t likely something you first think of when you’re about to travel somewhere. Because our contracted healthcare providers work in such rural and remote locations, doing a little up-front planning before heading out on assignment can make things much easier upon your arrival.

We’ve written an in-depth guide about how to prepare food for locum tenens assignments. The basics of traveling with food are as follows as a locum tenens:

Learn More About the Location of the Assignment

If you’re working with WMS, talk to your account executive about the position and how to plan for groceries, eating out, and other food amenities before your assignment.

Find Out Where to Purchase Groceries

Some rural areas will have grocery stores readily available. In areas of Montana, for instance, it’s common that small towns will have a small store to get staples. In other areas, like bush Alaska, there may not be a grocery store for miles upon miles, so you’ll need to plan ahead. A few major stores like Fred Meyer and Costco will allow you to place an order ahead of time, which will be flown to your assignment location. If you’re driving to somewhere without a grocery store readily available, purchase food ahead of time.

Know Your Options for Eating Out

Restaurants can be a treat to come across in rural and remote areas. While some towns are slightly more populated and have a few options for dining out, many remote areas will not have a restaurant nearby. We advise locum tenens providers to prepare mostly home-cooked meals while on assignment. Lodging for rural assignments typically include an on-site kitchen.

Pack Your Favorite Foods for Rural Locum Tenens Travel

Sometimes, packing the food that you want to bring with you is the best way to ensure that you’ll be able to eat what you want on assignment. This can be especially helpful if you have any dietary restrictions or if you’re worried about shipping certain foods. You will want to check with TSA before you travel to make sure you can bring the types of foods you’d like. You’ll often have more success with separating your food into checked baggage vs. bringing it onto a plane with you.

Prepare for the Weather

Before you take any locum tenens assignment, whether it’s with Wilderness Medical Staffing or with a different agency, do some research. Look into the location where you’ll be and take into consideration how you’ll be traveling there, the seasonality, and the location itself.

We have providers who live full-time in Florida, but who fly to Interior Alaska to take assignments during the year. As you can imagine, the attire is a bit different in January! Do some initial research on what the climate will be like for the duration of your assignment and pack accordingly.

At the very least, have a few items for all-weather adventures (think boots, socks, and a jacket).

What Happens if Something Goes Wrong During Travel?

While we try our best to mitigate travel issues, sometimes weather, airline issues, or other circumstances come up, making travel more difficult than expected. It’s always a good idea for you to have emergency contact information from your locum tenens staffing agency in case you need to contact someone if there is a travel emergency. At Wilderness Medical Staffing, we provide contact information regarding travel to all providers before heading out on assignment, just in case.

If you’re working with Wilderness Medical Staffing and you need assistance while traveling, you’ll most likely need to get in contact with the travel agency that we use, or whatever party booked your travel.

If you work with a different staffing agency, your travel may be booked by clients or you may book your own travel, so who you contact will depend on who booked the travel. This is especially true if you need to change flights since the originating party will have the best resources to help you with updating itineraries.

In circumstances where flights are delayed or canceled, you may need to find lodging for a day or two, depending on where you’re flying to or from. Your staffing agency should be able to assist with working out the details, so you have a place to stay. They may also work with you to find a different type of transportation if it makes sense to.

If Wilderness Medical Staffing is responsible for any travel issues, we’ll do what it takes to make it right with you.

Especially in Alaska and during winter in the states we staff, travel disruptions can happen. Staying calm, reaching out for help, and being flexible will aid in making your trip more enjoyable as you make it to your final destination.

Tips From Providers for Rural Locum Tenens Travel

We’ve had plenty of input from our locum tenens providers over the years and beyond what we’ve already mentioned above. You’ll want to keep these in mind.

Pack Your Carry-on Accordingly

Rural locum tenens travel doesn’t always go as smoothly as we would all like. To make it a little less stressful, we recommend packing personal items into a carry-on to use as an overnight bag. Include a change of clothes, toiletries, medications, and other important items that you cannot live without.

This way, if your luggage gets delayed or lost in transit, you’ll at least have essentials. Also, if you have a long travel day, it can help you to settle in faster without having to go through a large suitcase for the things you need.

Be Flexible

One of the key characteristics that we recommend locum tenens to have is flexibility, especially when it comes to rural locum tenens travel. When traveling to rural and remote locations, things can go wrong. Flights can get canceled due to weather or other outside circumstances. Baggage can get lost. No matter what happens, the providers who keep a positive attitude and take it all as part of the adventure are usually the most successful on assignments.

For many of our locum tenens healthcare providers, opportunities to travel are the main appeal of the type of work they do. With the right amount of preparation, travel shouldn’t be a big stressor and can add to the overall adventure of your work in rural and remote communities.

Now Staffing Locum and Permanent Positions

The Complete Alaska Nurse Practitioner License Guide

Wilderness Medical Staffing is proud to staff more healthcare providers in rural areas of Alaska than any other healthcare staffing agency. We started our company by staffing healthcare providers in Alaska and we encourage our locum tenens contracted providers to obtain their Alaska licensure so you can experience what it’s like to have an Alaskan adventure while practicing meaningful medicine in this beautiful state. Learn how to apply with our Complete Alaska Nurse Practitioner License Guide.

Introduction to The Alaska Nurse Practitioner License Guide

This is a licensing guide for nurse practitioners interested in becoming licensed in the state of Alaska for the first time. If that’s you, thank you for reading our blog article! If you haven’t already done so, please email us at [email protected] or call us at 509-215-1700 to reach the recruiting department and let us know you are interested in Alaska licensure. Our knowledgeable team will happily aid you in the process of becoming licensed.

The task of applying for APRN licensure in Alaska is daunting for most people, but don’t lose hope before you get started! Anyone can eat an elephant by taking one bite at a time. The task of becoming licensed in Alaska is truly a collection of simple tasks and forms; the only difficulty is in persevering through to the end.

The First Step: Prepare Your Documents

Before you jump into applying for licensure, we suggest you spend a little time gathering the below list of documents and information. The process will be much easier if you already have everything you’ll need before sitting down to complete the application materials.

  • Ink or digital fingerprints taken on an original FD-258 fingerprint card. (Digital fingerprinting is less likely to be rejected for a miss-roll.)
  • Copies of each state license you already possess.
  • Copies of your DEA and National Board certification for reference.
  • All CME certificates from the past 5 years.
  • Contact information for three references, peer-level or higher. Must have worked alongside you within the last 2 years.
  • Contact info for the National Board you are certified through, and the transcripts department of the university you graduated from.
  • A mug or glass of something delicious.

We’d also recommend keeping easily accessible, digital files of all the above information (excluding the drink, of course). If you’re able to access them on your phone, even better! When a file is newly updated, replace the old one. This can help with licensing, credentialing, and helping you apply to positions because your files will be accessible at a moment’s notice.

Apply for your RN license

Follow this link to sign up for your MyAlaska account and begin the online RN application process. You will want to apply for both your RN and APRN licensure online (as opposed to the print application). This makes the process faster, simpler, and easier for your licensing examiner to update you on what’s still needed.

Included in your RN application are the only fingerprints that will be required. If you want some direction on how to get those turned in, check out this document on the Alaska State Board of Nursing (BON) website. We suggest you have your fingerprints taken digitally because ink fingerprints will sometimes be rejected for a mis-roll or smudge. Keep in mind, that whether your fingerprints are taken with ink or scanned, they will need to be printed onto an official fingerprint card.

Your temporary RN license will be approved once your application is received, fees are paid, fingerprints are received, and they confirm your licensure in another state. This usually takes 4-6 weeks. Your permanent license should be granted within a month of your temporary license being granted.

Apply for your APRN license

Once you’ve completed your RN license application, stay logged into your MyAlaska account and start an application for your APRN license. You will need to complete another Notary Signature Page and upload that notarized document to your MyAlaska account. You will need the signature page notarized. You can usually get free notary services from your bank or accountant. If you don’t have access to those options, you can find a reasonably priced notary service in most localities with a quick Google search.

References and Employment Verification

In your RN license application, you had to fill out a page for the Verification of Nursing Employment portion. For your APRN, you will have to fill out a References page. Even though these documents may be sent to the same contact at your current/previous place of work, they are different and will both have to be completed. Keep this in mind as you send documents to your employer to complete. They will complete the form and send it directly to the Alaska BON.

Prescriptive Authority

If you are applying for an Alaska nurse practitioner license in hopes of taking locums assignments with WMS, you will certainly want to apply for full prescriptive authority (Controlled Substances and Legend Drugs). You will also have to apply for the PDMP (Prescription Drug Monitoring Program), which can be done for free online. To be granted prescriptive authority, you will need to have an active Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) license. If you do not yet have a DEA, please let your recruiter know as soon as possible.

Checklist to Know You’ve Completed All Items

If you fill out the applications online, you will get a checklist in your MyAlaska account that explains what they’re still pending once it’s all submitted. For that reason, we suggest bookmarking the MyAlaska website and checking often for updates. Just so you know now, below is a list of all fees and documents you will have submitted once you’ve completed every step of both the RN and APRN license applications:

  • RN and APRN Application forms completed and uploaded to your MyAlaska account
  • Fees paid (should total $775.00)
  • Notarized signature page
  • Fingerprints priority mailed to the state
  • Employment verification request sent to your employer
  • References page sent to your references
  • Official transcripts requested from your university
  • National Board certificate requested from your certifying body
  • Verification of RN state licensure sent to the appropriate states

I’ve Submitted Everything, Now What?

Let your recruiter know as soon as you complete your application materials and submit them! We will first congratulate you, then set a reminder to check in with you later. The best way to keep your nursing applications moving is to establish contact with your licensing examiner. WMS will send you an “Authorization to Discuss Application” form to e-sign that establishes us as a 3rd party with who you can contact the Board of Nursing on your behalf. If you choose to sign that form, we will send it to you about a month after the application was submitted so that your licensing examiner may receive it after they’ve already had the chance to review your application for licensure.

The other thing you can do to keep up to date on your license status is to check your MyAlaska account regularly. In the dashboard, you can pull up all license applications that are in progress. The board keeps that website updated with whatever you still need to complete. In the “comments” section, your licensing examiner will explain how to correctly complete the pieces of your licensing application that are still needed.

Conclusion

For more in-depth instruction on the Alaska nurse practitioner license process and our FAQ page, please visit our Helpful Tools page and download the APRN Licensing Process page. While you’re there, you can check out licensing guides for every state we do business in. We hope that this guide helps give some perspective on what is involved with the licensing process for Alaska. Though there are numerous documents required, it’s truly a straightforward process that becomes simple once you wrap your mind around it.

We wish you the best and encourage you not to let licensure become a barrier to realizing your dream to work in Alaska!

What to Expect with Locum Tenens Housing While on Assignment

For many providers looking to take their first locum tenens assignment in remote areas of the country, availability and quality of housing are very common concerns. Images of sleeping in an igloo, or perhaps a cabin teetering off the edge of a cliff in Charlie Chaplin’s “Gold Rush” may come to mind.

But worry not! No matter where you go on assignment, whether you’ve flown into Bush Alaska or driven to a small town in Eastern Montana, we will coordinate housing that is safe and secure. In this article, we’ll review what to expect with locum tenens housing while on assignment.

With the wide range of locations we staff, the housing provided depends completely on where you are going. Some small villages offer housing that is connected to the clinic. Others have a private house nearby. For short assignments that last for under a week, you may get a hotel reservation. What you can be certain of is that our account executive who staffs you for the specific position will be able to answer any questions you have about housing. We strongly recommend that you ask any questions you have and feel confident in the housing provided before agreeing to take an assignment.

(Please note that the information provided in this article is intended for Wilderness Medical Staffing contracted healthcare providers. However, the housing may be similar if you work with a different staffing agency or through the medical facility.)

Do I Need to Secure My Own Locum Tenens Housing?

As a healthcare provider, you can expect to have your locum tenens housing secured and paid for. In almost every case, WMS will work with the facility to coordinate your lodging. No matter the duration or location of your assignment, whether you are working a weekend and staying in a hotel room or living for six months in a private house, it will be provided to you as a benefit of working the assignment.

Exceptions to this rule are for some assignments that require a provider who already lives in the area. In those cases, we will only staff providers who live near enough to the job to return home every night.

Who Pays for the Locum Tenens Housing?

As the staffing agency, our clients pay for housing for our providers. Our role is to coordinate with the facility for your housing. We will send your travel itinerary to our client so they know when you will arrive. The facility will often either own or lease housing that is dedicated to traveling medical professionals like yourself. For shorter assignments, or in areas that have commercial housing options readily available, you may stay in a hotel, motel, Airbnb, or similar location. In any case, the housing you have will be decided before your assignment is confirmed and will be paid for.

locum tenens housingWhat Will My Locum Tenens Housing Be Like When I’m on Assignment?

In the remote and rural destinations we staff, lodging options will vary widely! We can only give you specifics for what to expect when we place you on a specific assignment. We do verify that your housing will have the following qualities:

  • Safe and secure. That means all doors and windows lock.
  • Heat in your housing so you stay at a comfortable temperature while indoors.
  • Clean water and working plumbing.
  • Sanitary and clean when you arrive.
  • Quiet enough to allow you to sleep during the nighttime hours.
  • Reasonable distance from the clinic you will be working at.

If for some reason, your housing doesn’t meet the qualifications listed above, or a repair needs to be made to the housing, we are committed to helping resolve the issue.

Can I Bring My Spouse, Partner, or Kids on Assignment?

You can often bring your spouse or partner with you on assignment. In cases where the housing is connected to the clinic, or shared with other medical providers, your spouse or partner may not be able to accompany you. We encourage our contracted locum tenens healthcare providers to talk to your account executive as soon as possible if you would like to bring a spouse/partner or other family members on assignment.

Many of our providers like to bring their whole family along to their locum tenens assignments. Children may sometimes accompany you on assignments when the housing provided is separate from the clinic where you will be working. Housing provided is typically meant to sustain one person (you) comfortably, so keep that in mind when you are looking for options. If your family requires more than 2 bedrooms, it is unlikely that the housing provided will be suitable for your entire family. Again, you’ll want to discuss additional travelers with your account executive upfront. Providers are responsible for covering any additional costs for family members, such as additional airline tickets, baggage fees, etc.

Can I Bring My Pet to Locum Tenens Housing?

Pets are often welcome on assignments, but not always. Some of the locations we staff have a strict no-pet policy. Others will accept pets in their housing with a nonrefundable (or refundable) pet deposit. Still, others will accept pets with no deposit required! Your best practice will be to mention you would like to bring your pet to your WMS representative as soon as possible. The likelihood of your pet being welcome will depend on their species, size, and how many pets you have.

Keep in mind, that you can expect to be responsible for any travel or housing costs that arise from your bringing your pet with you. Any damage caused by your pet will be your responsibility.

What If I’m Not Happy with the Housing Provided?

Sometimes the housing provided at a location does not meet your needs. Perhaps you travel with pets, and the location isn’t pet-friendly. Perhaps you want to bring your whole family, but the assigned housing is connected to the clinic. In those cases, you may have to organize your housing or simply pass on the assignment.

Many of the communities we staff are very small and do not have commercial housing options available, so finding alternative housing in those locations can be difficult or even impossible. It is very important that you work out these details with your account executive before signing the contract for the assignment. In most cases, you will be responsible for your housing costs if you do not accept the housing provided.

What is the Check-in Process for Locum Tenens Housing?

Our Operations team will ensure that you depart for your assignment with all the information you need for a seamless check-in process. If you are staying in a hotel, we will send you all the reservation information so all you have to do is give the front desk clerk your name when you arrive.

If you are staying in private locum tenens housing owned by the facility, you will be given the housing contact’s name and phone number for any questions about their check-in process.

Will I be Able to Cook Meals in Locum Tenens Housing?

For any assignment that exceeds 2-3 days, our team will be sure to secure housing that has at least a kitchenette with a sink and microwave. Exceptions to this rule are if you work in an industrial setting or closed campus where meals are provided in a cafeteria. In most cases, you will be responsible for purchasing and preparing your own food. In those cases, we will make every effort to avail you lodging that has a working kitchen.

Do I Need to Bring My Own Linens or Towels to Locum Tenens Housing?

Linens, towels, and pillows are usually provided but you may want to bring your own if you have a preference.

Will I Have to Share Housing with Another Provider?

The vast majority of housing provided for WMS locum tenens assignments is completely private. In some cases, for locations that depend heavily on locum tenens providers, shared housing is provided. You may need to share a kitchen, common space, or bathroom with other medical professionals who have traveled for work in the same facility.

In shared locum tenens housing situations, you will still have a bedroom door that locks. Usually, an effort is made by our clients to ensure that providers who share housing are all the same gender. Feel free to ask your account executive for details about shared housing situations, and air any concerns you have. Our highest priority is that you arrive at any assignment feeling safe and comfortable, knowing what to expect.

 

Many times, WMS contracted locum tenens providers enjoy the opportunity to travel to new, adventurous locations for assignments. Having the housing set up for you before you arrive can help you to settle into your new location and focus on helping the communities we serve.

If you have questions for us about locum tenens housing while on assignment, please contact us. We’re always happy to assist.

 

Learn more about locum tenens

Collaborative Plans for Physician Assistants in Alaska

Are you a physician assistant? Are you interested in working in the State of Alaska? In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about collaborative plans for physician assistants in Alaska.

While collaborative plans (or similar agreements) may be called something different from state to state, such as a supervision agreement (MT), delegation agreement (WA), or collaborative practice agreement (ID), we’ll focus specifically on Alaska’s collaborative plans.

Physician assistants who work with Wilderness Medical Staffing will have our team to guide you through this process. If you’re a PA who is working independently or perhaps with a different agency, we’ve also provided helpful information for you to get your plan submitted so you can start your position!

collaborative plansWhat is a Collaborative Plan?

According to the Alaska State Medical Board, a collaborative plan “is an agreement between a physician and a physician assistant (PA). The plan details the nature of the relationship by asking the physician to define the PA’s scope of practice, practice location, method of referrals, etc. There are minimum standards set by law; however, the plans can be customized to meet the needs of the practice, the physician, and the PA. For example, the law details the prescriptive authority for PAs but the physician may wish to restrict the PA from writing prescriptions in that practice.”

The physician must agree to certain responsibilities, including being available for referrals and consultations and being an educational resource for the PA.

There must also be communication between the supervising physician and the physician assistant for quality assurance. In addition, the Alaska State Medical Board requires a “periodic method of assessment.”

You can find additional guidelines for Alaska State collaborative plans here.

How Do I Get a Collaborative Plan?

Please note that this may be different if you are working independently or with another staffing agency. You will want to have an up-to-date version of your CV ready to send in along with the collaborative plan. In addition, you need to have a valid license in Alaska, as you will need to include your license number on the application. Note that you must not be under sanctions from the Alaska State Board of Medicine. In addition, as a PA, your practice may not exceed the scope of the physician’s.

If you’re working with WMS, your operations associate will facilitate getting a copy of the collaborative plan to you via a document tool. Please note that you must have a collaborative file with each facility you work at.

If you’re filling out the collaborative plan independently, you can find the document here, from the Alaska State Medical Board.

How Do I Fill Out a Collaborative Plan?

You’ll need to enter any information about your role as a physician assistant including contact information and licensing information. You’ll also need to fill out any fields relevant to the assignment you are planning to work at, such as start dates and assignment location. (It should only take you a few minutes to complete.)

We have a sample collaborative plan on our website with information on what you’ll need to fill out as a physician assistant.

From there, the collaborative plan will need to be sent to (either electronically or via postal mail) and filled out by the collaborating physician and an alternate physician. Alternate physicians are required for the collaborative plan to be approved. For providers who are working with Wilderness Medical Staffing, we’ll facilitate getting the physician’s office to complete their portion.

If the collaborative plan needs to be mailed to the collaborating physician’s office, we will provide our contracted providers with additional details about how to do that.

If you’re filling out the collaborative plan independently and the physician’s office prefers a mailed copy of the collaborative plan, you’ll need to mail the copy to their office. We recommend sending it overnight for the fastest turnaround of the documents.

collaborative plansHow Do I Submit the Collaborative Plan?

Some physicians prefer to mail the hard copies of collaborative plans and others prefer to submit them electronically. The Alaska Board of Medicine will accept them either way.

If you are working through Wilderness Medical Staffing for your assignment and the forms are being completed electronically, once all parties have completed their portion of the application, we will submit it to the Alaska State Medical Board on your behalf. For mailed forms, the physician’s office will mail the application to the Alaska State Medical Board.

If you’re filling out the collaborative plan independently, you will need to confirm that the physician’s office has submitted them electronically or mailed them to the Alaska State Medical Board along with a copy of your CV and the $125 fee.

It’s important to note that collaborative plans must be filed with the Alaska State Medical Board no later than 14 days from the beginning date of employment.

What does it cost to submit a collaborative plan?

Each collaborative plan costs $125 to submit. For WMS contracted providers, our clients cover the cost of your collaborative plan for WMS assignments.

If you are not contracted through WMS, you’ll likely need to pay this fee through the Alaska State Medical Board. The current form includes billing information, so you can easily pay for the application upon submittal, however, it is recommended that you DO NOT email credit card information. If you include your credit card information for payment, we recommend mailing or faxing it instead.

How long does it take for a collaborative plan to be approved?

This number can and does vary, but we typically see collaborative plans approved within 4-6 weeks of submission.

Once the physician assistant’s collaborative plan has been approved by the Alaska State Medical Board, it will be posted to your professional license.

At Wilderness Medical Staffing, our team is well-versed in assisting physician assistants to get collaborative plans completed and submitted. If you’re a PA and you’re interested in working on an assignment in Alaska, we encourage you to reach out to our recruiting team or apply to our open assignments from our Open Jobs page.

Now Staffing Locum and Permanent Positions

Preparing Food for Your Rural Locum Tenens Assignment

The locums lifestyle offers variety, flexibility, travel, adventure, and some interesting challenges! Providers who accept assignments to remote locations for WMS are well-aware of this, and many have developed highly refined strategies for creative packing and resource management in the field.

For providers new to WMS, or for those who haven’t yet experienced some of the more remote locations where we staff, we thought it would be helpful to delve into the most basic of questions after a long day at work: “What’s for dinner?”

We’re going beyond dinner, though. You’ll be thinking of food long before that question comes up, so we’ll start at the beginning by telling you many of the things we’ve learned about preparing food for your rural locum tenens assignment!

(Please note that this article will be especially helpful for now WMS providers who are going on assignment. However, if you’re new to locum tenens or even if you’re working with a different staffing agency that staffs in rural locations in the United States, this article should give you some good advice, so you’re prepared.)

Position Descriptions: What to Expect Before Arrival

At Wilderness Medical Staffing, for each assignment, the contracted provider will receive a “position description.” This document outlines many of the details of the assignment, including information about what to expect before you arrive.

If you’ve accepted an assignment in one of the smaller communities WMS supports, you’ve already seen a position description and may have some sense of what you’ll find when you arrive.

Understand the Food Situation at the Location

Some rural and remote communities have a range of grocery stores and restaurants, and food options won’t be a challenge to navigate. Other locations will have very limited choices for buying groceries, possibly few-to-no restaurants, and food may be quite expensive. (This is especially true in Alaska bush communities where all provisions must be flown in from a larger hub.)

The first thing to determine, well before you travel, is exactly what the food situation will be, and how you should prepare for it. This is particularly important if you’re going to be working in this location for an extended time. You can discuss this with your account executive or ask to talk with another provider who’s recently worked in that location.

Alaska isn’t the only state with small communities and limited food-buying or restaurant options. Rural communities in the other states where WMS staffs, such as Montana, could have similar issues. Again, know your options before you travel. (Some of our providers drive to their assignments, and driving offers choices that flying doesn’t, so the method of travel is another variable to consider as you make your food plan.)

Don’t assume that you’ll find all your favorite foods or brands in small communities. Many of the small towns and villages where providers work are fortunate to have one grocery store.

Location, Lodging, and Food For Your Rural Locum Tenens Assignment

rural locum tenens housing For longer assignments, providers are typically housed in an apartment. Occasionally, especially if the assignment is relatively short, the accommodation might be in a hotel, or even a private room within the healthcare facility. In these two scenarios cooking facilities might be a microwave, fridge, and coffee maker.

If you’re housed in an apartment, you can generally expect to have a full kitchen. You likely will not have a dishwasher, but you would typically expect a full-size fridge/freezer, microwave, stove/oven, basic dishes and cookware, coffee maker, utensils, and at least minimum stock of dishwashing detergent, toilet paper, and paper towels.

When you’re living in locums housing, whether it’s for a week or a month, you’re living in a shared space, even though the sharing is sequential. Providers often leave items that they haven’t used up in the kitchen, so you may fall heir to random products such as spices, condiments, beverages, canned goods, etc. (It’s a good idea to check expiration dates if you choose to use something that’s been left behind.) Other times you’ll be lucky to find salt and pepper and coffee filters already on hand.

Whether you feel comfortable using anything that’s been donated to the common kitchen is up to you. But don’t be surprised to open a cabinet door and find a collection of pantry items already in residence, or a few jars on the door of the fridge. You may find yourself doing the same when you’re ready to leave, and that’s typically fine. Just be courteous and don’t leave actual leftovers, or any food that wouldn’t be appropriate to share with the next person staying in the space.

So many of your choices will depend on location and lodging, and the length of time you’re on assignment. Once you know what to expect you can think about the other variables. Planning is key to efficient food prep and satisfying meals.

What Food To Bring For Your Rural Locum Tenens Assignment

While kitchens are equipped with the basics, depending on how much you enjoy cooking or your specific food choices, you may want to bring some items that you’ll appreciate, especially if you’re going to be spending weeks or months in your temporary space.

You may want to bring a favorite knife or a selection of spices and seasonings. You might even have a small appliance that you choose to bring along. Many people use small personal-size blenders to make smoothies or protein shakes. You may have a favorite all-purpose skillet or other items that make your meal prep easier. This is the type of convenience that you might consider bringing if your luggage space allows.

When you’re working and living in unfamiliar settings, the last thing you need is a struggle with food and meal prep. If you enjoy cooking, you may find this just another element of your adventure, but regardless, you should be prepared for the setting you’re stepping into.

Flying with Food For Your Rural Locum Tenens Assignment

If you’re taking food items on a flight in your carry-on luggage, check in advance to know what TSA will allow. Once I tried to take a jar of organic gourmet peanut butter in my carry-on and it was confiscated when I went through security at the airport. (Let me just say, I mourned that jar of peanut butter!)

But I’ve successfully taken fruit, pastries, vegetables, fresh herbs, and several other foods through TSA without any problem. You can’t bring liquids through airport security, and since I lost my peanut butter, I’ve avoided bringing any item with a similar texture. But most foods are ok to carry on. And if you want to take gourmet peanut butter with you, just put it in your checked luggage!

You can take food in your luggage, but you’ll want to consider your weight limitations and the type of food. Obviously, liquids or highly perishable items won’t be good choices, but you can take fresh fruit and vegetables (just nothing too delicate), hard cheeses, cereal, rice, or other pantry items, especially if groceries in your work location are expensive. Plan to buy perishables or items that won’t pack well when you arrive.

If you follow a strict diet, you might even want to prep your meals and freeze them to take with you. You can check ice chests as luggage on commercial flights, and I’ve known people to do this. Again, keep in mind weight limitations, especially if you’re going to ultimately be taking a bush plane or seaplane to your destination. (It’s probably good to have a backup plan in case your ice chest gets lost as you travel.)

Shipping Food For Your Rural Locum Tenens Assignment

For communities in Alaska that can only be reached by bush plane or seaplane, you may need to ship your food in. Some services do this. If you’re heading out for an assignment with WMS, ask your account executive or operations staff member about this option. Typically, bush planes and seaplanes have weight restrictions for luggage, so you won’t be able to pack much food to take with you and the only options will be shipping in or buying locally. If you’re advised to shop on the way in or ship your food in, there’s a reason, whether it’s the cost of buying locally, limited options, or both.

For some assignments, the position description suggests that providers will want to shop in a larger city while en route to their destination, buying groceries in Anchorage, Fairbanks, or another hub, and shipping their food out to their village destination. (You can read more about packing food for Alaska assignments, in specific in our article “The Ultimate Alaska Packing List for Locum Tenens Healthcare Providers.”

Additional Considerations

Before heading out for an assignment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you follow a special diet (gluten-free, Keto, vegan, dairy-free, etc.?)
  • Do you have food allergies to plan around?
  • Do you have a menu rotation of easy meals you can adjust in case you need to substitute ingredients?
  • Do you usually buy organic produce or other specialty grocery items, and what will you substitute if your regular choices aren’t available?
  • Do you like wine with dinner or specialty coffee or tea?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions, here are a few tips to help you be prepared before you arrive.

  1. Create a menu with at least a few days of meals planned. Know what ingredients you’ll need for each recipe so if you’re shopping as you travel to your work location, you already have a list in hand.
  2. Choose basic recipes that don’t require a long list of ingredients or specialty ingredients that may be hard to find in a small market or use special kitchen equipment to prepare.
  3. Identify spices or herbs you want to take with you. Spices and seasonings can be extremely expensive in small markets (or sometimes unavailable) and might be the best secret ingredient to tuck in your luggage.
  4. You might consider bringing protein shake mixes, easy snacks like granola bars, popcorn, etc. with you to supplement what you buy locally.
  5. Don’t forget to include nutrition supplements if you take these.
  6. If you’re bringing a pet, be sure to plan for your pet’s food as well.

Food at the Community You’re Serving

You may be lucky enough to be on assignment in a community that offers great fishing, or hunting, and to be there in the season for these events. If you are, you may be able to buy fish or game from local residents or even be invited out to hunt or fish on a day off. Local fish or game could be a great

way to supplement your food options and give you a real taste of the area! I’ve learned to clean shrimp, crab, and oysters, how to cook salmon and halibut in multiple ways, and I pick berries in the summer; all skills learned while living in Alaskan communities and enjoying the cuisine of the region!

When you’re experiencing a community and healthcare setting as a locum tenens provider, you’ll inevitably be around for a holiday or birthday, or special celebration of some kind. If you’re invited to take part in a potluck or any type of food event, of course, the choice to participate is up to the individual. It’s a wonderful way to get better acquainted with staff, to try local foods, to be enfolded in the community, even in a small way. Join in if work permits and you’re comfortable taking part!

Have Experience with Food on Assignments? Let us know!

We love hearing from providers who have interesting stories and adventures to share! If you’ve got a food story to share, please let us know. Maybe you experienced an amazing local festival, or you finally learned to cook fresh salmon. Send us a recipe (and photos if you like) and you might find yourself featured on our social media!

If you have suggestions for providers coming after you as to how to best manage grocery shopping, etc., on assignment, we appreciate insights and guidance. We’ll always pass on wisdom gained from experience!

Good luck with your culinary adventures while on assignment! It’s just another way to have fun when you’re working for Wilderness Medical Staffing!

We staff rural & remote locations. Learn More.