For healthcare providers seeking adventure, a wholesome cultural experience, and the chance to make a difference in a rural setting, Eastern Montana is an ideal destination for locum tenens assignments. This article is the first of our “Locum Tenens: Montana by Region” series, designed to provide insight into the areas that we staff. Read on to learn about travel in Eastern Montana, a must-work destination for locum tenens who are interested in rural and remote assignments.
Eastern Montana is a desirable location for locum tenens providers for many reasons. With its vast, open landscapes and small, tight-knit communities, the region offers a unique opportunity to practice medicine in a rural and remote environment. Despite the region’s sparse population, Eastern Montana boasts modern healthcare facilities and well-developed communities. Healthcare providers in Eastern Montana have the chance to provide much-needed care to patients who might not otherwise have access to it, while also experiencing the region’s unique way of life.
Why you should work in Eastern Montana
Eastern Montana can be a great place for healthcare workers to work as locum tenens providers for several reasons. The first reason is the phenomenal flexibility you will find in the length of locum assignments. Some jobs in Eastern Montana are as short as a couple of days, others last as long as 3-6 months. No matter what timeframe or duration of work you are looking for, there are options for you in Eastern Montana.
Another major reason our providers love working in Eastern Montana is the patient population. Montana is home to a diverse population, including many Native American and farming or ranching communities. This can provide healthcare workers with the opportunity to work with a range of patients from different cultural backgrounds. When working in the Critical Access Hospitals you find in the small towns of Eastern Montana, many of your patients will be hard-working and appreciative folks who do not take you for granted. The same is true for your colleagues in the clinic! Healthcare providers in Eastern Montana often work closely with other providers and healthcare organizations to deliver care to patients in rural areas. This collaborative work culture can be a rewarding experience for locum tenens providers.
Finally, the most obvious reason to work in Montana: the outdoors. Montana is known for its natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities. They call Montana the Big Sky State for a reason! Spending time outside while on assignment in Montana will make you feel small in the best way. With almost no light pollution, Eastern Montana has some of the best stargazing in the Lower 48. Hiking, fishing, hunting, and photography are very common pastimes for locum tenens during their off-time.
Healthcare Facilities in Eastern Montana
The work you’ll find in Eastern Montana as a locum tenens provider will typically fall into one of two categories: the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) and primary care clinics on Indian Reservations. Providers working at a CAH will typically wear many hats, with inpatient rounding and primary care appointments alongside walk-in patients and the occasional emergency. Emergency call is always part of the schedule when working at Critical Access Hospitals. Because of the provider supply deficit, you can expect higher patient demand in Eastern Montana than you would see in other parts of the US with comparable population densities as patients may be traveling long distances to be seen.
Assignments at Critical Access Hospitals vary widely in duration. Some jobs are as short as a weekend, most are rotations that last one or two weeks. Many of our locum providers build relationships with specific sites and rotate with them regularly.
Our other common facilities are on Indian reservations, where the work is especially rewarding. Those jobs tend to have much more time off as regular business hours are kept with some flexibility in daily schedules available. In these settings, providers will see primary care patients in a wellness center or school-based clinic. Assignments on Indian Reservations are almost always much longer, with providers staying in one job for 3-6 months at least.
Eastern Montana Climate and Geography
Eastern Montana has a semi-arid climate with four distinct seasons. The region experiences cold winters and hot summers with significant temperature fluctuations throughout the year. The whole region is part of the Great Plains.
In winter, temperatures can drop below freezing and stay there for extended periods. Temperatures regularly dip below zero and snowfall is common in Eastern Montana, with an average annual snowfall of around 45 inches (114 cm) in some areas.
Spring is characterized by strong winds and occasional snowstorms. Though temperatures in Spring can reach the 70s, be prepared for snow at any time.
Summer is hot and dry, with temperatures reaching into the 90s. The average rainfall during this period is minimal, with an average of 1 inch (2.5 cm) per month. However, thunderstorms are common in the region, and they can bring brief heavy rainfall.
Fall brings cooler temperatures fluctuating from the 30s into the 60s. It is also characterized by occasional snowfalls, strong winds, and rapid temperature fluctuations. The average precipitation during this period is around 2 inches (5 cm) per month.
Eastern Montana has an average of 250 sunny days per year, making it an excellent place for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and fishing. However, the region is also prone to severe weather events such as thunderstorms, hailstorms, and tornadoes, particularly during the spring and summer months.
Severe thunderstorms and hailstorms are the most common weather-related events that can pose a threat to human life and property in Eastern Montana, followed by temperature extremes and, to a lesser extent, tornadoes. Wildfires and resulting smoke are also an increasing reality across Montana. Always watch the air-quality alerts and follow the expert’s advice to stay indoors if the smoke is making air quality unhealthy or hazardous.
Travel through Eastern Montana
When traveling to Eastern Montana from out of state, you will typically fly into Billings or Bozeman and then rent a vehicle to drive many hours to your destination. If you are going to do this, there are several things to keep in mind. First, Montana is a large state with long distances between towns, so it is important to plan accordingly and allow plenty of time for travel. It’s also important to be aware of the weather conditions, especially late fall, through the winter, and early spring when roads can be snowy or icy.
Here are some tips for a safe and enjoyable road-trip experience across Montana:
- You will need a reliable SUV or other vehicle with four-wheel drive. If our team is renting your vehicle for you, we will ensure you have an appropriate vehicle available to you.
- Pack a map or GPS device for any road travel, as well as a phone charger and extra batteries. Cell phone coverage can be spotty in rural areas, so it is important to have a backup communication method.
- In addition to your extra devices, at least a full day’s supply of food and water for longer drives is necessary.
- Keep track of your gas mileage and plan your trip according to where the next gas station is. With hours between stations in some cases, you will want to keep a full tank of gas in your car and always ensure you have enough to get to your next fill-up.
- Be aware of wildlife on the roads, especially at dawn and dusk when they are most active. Hitting a large animal like a deer or elk can be very dangerous and cause significant damage to your car.
- Take frequent breaks and stretch your legs, especially during long drives. Montana has some stunning scenery, so take advantage of pullouts and scenic overlooks to take in the views.
Culture of Eastern Montana
Eastern Montana is a sparsely populated region, with a total population of around 200,000 people spread across 20 counties. The population of the region is predominantly white, with a small percentage of Native Americans, Hispanics, and other racial/ethnic groups. The people of Eastern Montana are known for their strong work ethic and self-reliance, due in part to the region’s rural and agricultural roots. The region has a long history of farming and ranching, and many residents continue to work in these industries today. In that context, there is a strong sense of community in Eastern Montana with residents often coming together to support each other during times of need.
While Eastern Montana is generally considered to be a conservative-leaning region, there is also a growing sense of social and cultural diversity in many communities. Despite the relatively homogeneous nature of the region’s cultural makeup, recent shifts in demographics, cultural attitudes, and economic development have brought a greater diversity of people and ideas to many communities. Diversity initiatives include the City of Billings’ “One Big Sky” event and the Montana Two Spirit Society, which works to promote understanding and support for the Two Spirit community in Montana. Other diverse cultural events include the annual Hmong New Year celebration in Billings, or the Native American cultural events hosted by various tribes throughout the region.
If you are traveling to Eastern Montana from a more populated area, you may experience a very different mainstream culture than you are used to. Montanans are known to be especially friendly but hold honor in high regard. Respect is a core value of most Eastern Montana communities. When interacting with people, make sure to listen to them, show interest in their stories, and avoid making assumptions or judgments about their beliefs or values. Slowing down, taking time to connect, and being very polite will help you establish a good rapport with patients, coworkers, and community members.
What to do in Eastern Montana
In Eastern Montana, most past times fall into one of two categories: cultural events and outdoor activities. There are several regular events in Eastern Montana that may be of interest to visitors from out of state like the Crow Fair, Montana Fair, and Lewis and Clark Festival for example. Rodeos are a significant part of Eastern Montana culture as well, like the Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City. When traveling through Montana, you may want to check local event calendars and tourism websites for information on upcoming events in your area.
Eastern Montana is known for its vast natural landscapes and outdoor recreational activities. The Missouri River Region in the Northeast corner of the state has striking rock formations and views essentially untouched by man. Popular activities across the region include hunting big game like elk or deer, fishing the Missouri River and other great rivers, hiking, and wildlife viewing/photography. Keep in mind the State of Montana has made out-of-state tags for hunting big game prohibitively expensive, so be sure to research the cost of those tags before committing to a hunting trip. There is an established industry of guided wildlife tours set up for visitors across the state for viewing or photography, two pastimes that will never require tags. If you want to get on the river but are not a fisher, you can always try kayaking or paddleboarding!
Eastern Montana is the kind of unique place in America that some people fall in love with. The great natural beauty, wildlife, and ranching culture set this region apart from most places in 21st-century America. If you are interested in working locum tenens (or permanent) assignments in Eastern Montana, reach out to us! We’re happy to get to know you better and discuss if jobs in this unique region of Montana could be right for you.
Additionally, if you’re looking to hire locum tenens in your medical practice and are located in Montana, Wilderness Medical Staffing would be proud to partner with your team and find the right fit for you!