Locum Tenens: Alaska By Region – Interior Alaska

For healthcare providers who enjoy the great outdoors, welcome the challenge of an austere environment, and want to go outside of their comfort zone, taking locum tenens assignments in Alaska can be especially rewarding. This article is a continuation of our “Locum Tenens: Alaska by Region” series, intended to teach providers more about the areas that we staff. Read on to learn about why Interior Alaska is an exciting destination for locum tenens who are interested in meaningful remote medicine.

Interior Alaska is the common term for Alaska’s central region, stretching across vast wilderness into the Arctic Circle in the north down to the Alaska Range of mountains in the south. With the lowest population density in the US, this truly is America’s Last Frontier. There are only two highways in this region, the Alaska Highway runs from Yukon Territory North to Fairbanks. The Parks Highway will take you from Fairbanks to Anchorage.

You may also hear this region referred to as “Bush Alaska”. Bush Alaska begins where the roads and highways end. This region is so spread out and unpopulated, the only ways to access most communities is by air or riverboat. As a locum tenens provider, you will be flying to your destination on a small bush plane.

Why You Should Work in the Alaska Interior as a Locum Tenens

Our company’s work began in the Interior, and in many ways the heart of our mission to place excellent providers in rural communities remains there. Low population densities, widespread poverty and arctic climate make Interior Alaska some of the most medically underserved land in the USA. Our first contract was in the village of Tanana, AK where our founder, Mary Ellen Doty, lived for many years and raised her children as she worked at the clinic as a nurse practitioner. Her experience working in this region inspired her to start our company and connect high-quality medical providers with clinics that desperately needed them. (You can watch her story here.) Working in Alaska’s Interior, you will see the difference you are making in real-time with your own eyes.

This Interior is truly unique, wild country. As a locum tenens provider, you will have the opportunity to visit this region and experience true adventure in a land without many of the comforts and conveniences modern Americans are used to. A land of freedom and quiet; you will likely see bears, moose, and even wolves.

The experience working in these clinics with very low census numbers as a solo provider is also unique. If you are looking for the freedom to give each patient the time and care they deserve, you will find your work in these communities very meaningful.

If you’re considering a position in Interior Alaska, we have a dedicated account executive who has extensive knowledge of this area and the facilities that we work with. We’d be happy to speak with you.

What Locum Tenens Need to Know About the Climate and Geography of Interior Alaska

Interior Alaska as a climate region experiences some of the widest ranges in temperature in the world. In the summer months, when the sun is up almost 24-hours a day, daytime temperatures can reach into the 90s. In the depths of winter, temperatures can dip dangerously low to the -50s and even lower. At those temperatures, life slows down a lot and safety is a daily concern.

During the fall, winter, and spring, you must pack to stay warm, dry, and comfortable. Dressing warm with multiple layers, but not so tight and hot that you sweat. Do not pack cotton as a base layer, or at all if you can help it because cotton will draw your heat off of you when it gets wet. As the saying goes, “cotton kills”. If you get caught outside with frozen cotton base layers, hypothermia and frostbite are close at hand. As you pack, the below list is a great starting point:

  • Moisture-wicking base layers.
  • Comfortable mid-layers to insulate from the cold.
  • A good parka or thick winter jacket as your outer layer.
  • Warm moisture-wicking socks.
  • Warm hat, scarf, face protection.
  • Warm waterproof gloves or mittens.
  • Waterproof, insulated boots are a must.

Of course, the weather in the summer is very different with daylight almost 24-hours a day in the Arctic Circle. In the warm weather months, you should pack lots of layers and sun protection as the temperatures can reach into the 90s in the heat of the day.

Fun fact: With low temperatures dipping below -60 and highs above 90 every year, Fairbanks Alaska has the widest annual variation of high and low temps of any city in the world.

We also have an in-depth packing checklist if you’ll be traveling to Alaska.

Traveling to Interior Alaska as a Locum Tenens

In order to travel to an Interior Alaska village, you will fly a major airline to either Fairbanks or Anchorage. From there, you will board a small propellor craft through a regional Alaska airline. Common airlines are Ravn Alaska, Grant Aviation and Wright Airlines. Our knowledgeable team will organize these flights for you and explain anything you need to know about flying these airlines.

In the Last Frontier, well-stocked grocery stores are a rarity. In fact, many of the people who live in Alaska’s Interior still depend on subsistence hunting and fishing for a large portion of their diet. Some villages will have a convenience store with basic non-perishable items but these stores will be limited and expensive as everything must be flown in. You will save money and eat better if you stock up on groceries before departing. There is a Fred Meyer in both Fairbanks and Anchorage that offer “bush orders”. You can order on-line and they will ship to your location. Please note that these shipments go by air and your delivery may be delayed, so use caution when ordering perishables this way. You will save money by purchasing supplies in a major city and shipping to your work location even if you are not reimbursed for the baggage. Read our article about preparing food for your assignment before you head out.

When you arrive in the village, your ground transportation may be a snow machine (snowmobile) or even a 4-wheeler. In most cases though, you will have access to a truck that doubles as the town ambulance. No matter your method of ground transportation, it is of vital importance that you dress appropriately for the weather.

Life in the Village

The sense of community in villages across this region is palpable when you arrive. Everyone in the Interior depends on each other and supports each other. As a medical provider, you will quickly become acquainted with the family units in these communities, seeing patients within the same extended family across generations. One of the reasons why medicine in this region can be so meaningful to our providers is the fact that you are caring for the entire community’s medical needs. Life in these remote communities is very different from most places in the US, beyond the reach of many 21st-century amenities.

If you are working anywhere in Alaska outside the major cities (Fairbanks for example), it is very likely that your cell phone will not have service. Major cell service providers do not have good service in remote Alaska. The best cell coverage by far is provided by GCI, a small cell provider based in Alaska. If you must take a bush plane, ferry, or helicopter to get to your destination, it is a good sign you might want a GCI phone. You may want to check out GCI’s website and consider getting a burner phone through that company when you arrive in Alaska.

All clinics will have Internet, but it can become spotty due to weather. In remote areas of Interior Alaska, Internet in the housing can be unreliable or absent altogether. If you are planning a long assignment in the Interior, you may want to bring entertainment like a thick book you’ve been wanting to read or some movies. Many housing options for Alaska assignments have TVs with DVD players or Internet in the room. If you get a GCI phone for your trip, there are many parts of Alaska where you can get data to your phone and have Internet anywhere that way. It is also a good idea to come with your cell phone prepared for Wi-Fi calling and texting. In many villages, you will have access to the Internet but may not have cell service.


Interior Alaska is the premier location if you are looking for adventure and meaningful work as a locum tenens medical provider. The tight-knit communities, breathtaking expansive landscape, and true wilderness set the Interior apart from the rest of the USA. On adventures like this, it is very important to be prepared and know what to expect. In this article, we covered considerations to make about clothing, food, cell service, and Internet. Our team knows firsthand the challenges and joys of work in this country like no other staffing company. If you are interested in learning more about work in the Interior, contact our knowledgeable team today and schedule a time to discuss your dreams with us.

Additionally, if you’re looking to hire locum tenens in your medical practice and are located in Interior Alaska, Wilderness Medical Staffing would be proud to partner with your team and find the right fit for you!

Learn more about locum tenens