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Locum Tenens: Washington By Region – Central Washington

For medical providers who are eager to start work in rural areas, Central Washington is one of the most accessible regions we staff. This article is the first of our “Locum Tenens: Washington by Region” series, designed to provide insight into a state our company is expanding into. Read on to learn about Central Washington, and all the opportunities available to providers who are interested in making the jump into rural locum tenens medicine. 

Why You Should Work in Central Washington 

Making up the Cascade Mountain Range, Columbia Basin, and plateau immediately east of the mountains, Central Washington is a rural agricultural hub that is easily accessible from the populous Seattle area. Unlike most of the regions we staff, any medical facility in Central Washington is a couple hours’ drive from the SeaTac airport that services direct flights from all major US cities. Any medical provider who lives in the Pacific Northwest can easily drive to Central Washington on major highways. 

Central Washington is medically well-resourced, with easy access to major hospitals throughout the region. Despite being a sparsely populated rural area, this part of the state offers opportunities in specific clinical contexts like urgent care, primary care, and emergency medicine. If you do not have emergency experience, you may be a good candidate for clinic sites. Alternatively, parts of Central Washington are rural enough to have hospitals designated as Critical Access Hospitals. Strong emergency medicine experience is required at Critical Access Hospitals and facilities requiring emergency care since you will often be a solo provider at these types of facilities. Whether you are a medical professional interested in beginning your journey to become a rural locum tenens provider or if you have years of emergency medicine experience, Central Washington is the perfect setting to take your first step. 

Healthcare Facilities in Central Washington 

Central Washington boasts a robust healthcare infrastructure compared to other rural areas our company staffs, offering a diverse range of healthcare facilities to meet the needs of every patient. Central Washington features an extensive network of rural urgent cares, family practice clinics, and community health centers in every town, with major hospitals in Moses Lake, Yakima, and Wenatchee, providing comprehensive medical services and advanced care. With its significant agricultural industry, there are many community health centers and programs that specifically serve the immigrants and migrant farm workers who reside in Central Washington. These centers often provide unique services tailored to the healthcare needs of the population. In addition to providing necessary medical care, some of these programs assist with navigating the complexities of healthcare access for individuals who may face barriers due to immigration status or seasonal work arrangements.

With this wide spectrum of facility types and exciting community health programs, there’s a place in Central Washington for almost every talented medical provider who wants to practice meaningful medicine. 

Central Washington Climate and Geography 

Central Washington’s regional borders extend from the Canadian border in the north to the bottom of the state bordering Oregon State, with the Cascade Range on its western edge and extending east into Eastern Washington. The Cascades are the youngest mountain range in the contiguous US, with jagged peaks that often have snow year-round due to heavy snowfall caught by the high mountains.

Because these mountains catch rainfall from the Pacific Ocean, most of Central Washington has a strikingly arid climate compared to the verdant forests just over the pass in Western Washington. The arid climate in parts of Central Washington makes it suitable for agriculture, including the cultivation of a wide variety of produce including apples, wine grapes, cherries, onions, and hops. With its Mediterranean climate and ideal terroir for wine grape and hop production, there is a robust beer and wine tourism culture across the region.

Central Washington experiences four very distinct seasons and over 300 days of sunshine in a typical year. Summers are intense and hot, with heatwaves common and daily highs commonly exceeding 90 degrees. Many consider fall the best time of year with cool mornings and warm afternoons, and harvest season in full swing by the end of October. Winters are generally cold and snowy, but you rarely get more than a foot of snow at a time and most days are sunny.  

Travel Through Central Washington 

When traveling to Washington from out of state, you will typically fly into the SeaTac Airport and then rent a vehicle for the drive to your destination. Anyone traveling to Central Washington from the west will have to pass through the Cascade Mountains. To do this, there are a few options you will take depending on where you are headed: Snoqualmie, Stevens or White Pass. 

Snoqualmie Pass is the section of Interstate Highway 90 that crosses over the Cascade Range. This section of the highway is notoriously difficult to cross in the wintertime with heavy snowfall being common. When traveling over Snoqualmie Pass from November through April, tire chains are strongly recommended. Allow at least an hour of extra travel time for traffic and slow snow driving during these months. If Snoqualmie Pass is closed, there is Stevens Pass to the north and White Pass to the south. For providers who love outdoor recreation, there is a ski resort near every one of these mountain passes.  

What To Do in Central Washington 

With its proximity to the Cascade Range, there are numerous outdoor recreation opportunities in the mountains. Many ski resorts including Stevens Pass, White Pass, and Summit at Snoqualmie. Most ski resorts have open bike park tracks for mountain biking during the summer, so lifts are open most of the year. There are numerous state parks in Central Washington up and down the Cascade Range and beyond. Visit the North Cascades National Park for stunning alpine landscapes, glaciers, and mountain lakes in one of the least-trafficked national parks in the west. Visit Lake Wenatchee State Park near Leavenworth for swimming and hiking. For those interested in geology, the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park is a fascinating look millions of years into the past at fossilized ginkgo trees that once forested the arid landscape.

Beyond the numerous outdoor activities, many don’t know that the Columbia Basin is one of America’s most prolific wine regions. Across the region, especially near Yakima and the Walla Walla Valley, wineries and vineyards dot the landscape. There is also a well-established beer scene in most towns with major breweries like Iron Horse and Bale Breaker. Another great destination is the very tourist-friendly Leavenworth. The small town is surrounded by natural beauty at the feet of the Cascades. Its Bavarian theme make it a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else.  Visit Leavenworth for Oktoberfest or a magical experience during the holiday season. 

Almost everywhere in Central Washington, but especially in the Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities area, there is amazing Mexican food from countless taco trucks and taquerias for those who know where to find it. Some on our team have personal favorites in Tri-Cities and Walla Walla for example that tend to keep well-kept secrets from visitors. We suggest you do your research for great tacos no matter where you go. 


If you are a medical provider and would like to earn money while traveling to new places like Central Washington, Wilderness Medical Staffing is the locum tenens company for you! When you are ready to work locum tenens (or permanent) assignments in Central Washington, reach out to us! We’re happy to get to know you better and discuss if jobs in this area could be right for you.  

Additionally, if you’re looking to hire locum tenens in your medical practice and are located in Washington, Wilderness Medical Staffing would be proud to partner with your team and find the right fit for you! We have many talented providers with strong experience in primary care, urgent care, emergency medicine, and more. 

Learn more about locum tenens