Location of Locum Assignment(s)
Montana and Alaska
Briefly describe your pre-medical and/or pre-locum work experience
Before traveling as a locum clinician, I spent 8 years rotating on an assignment in a very small forward operating base (FOB) in Iraq where I was the only licensed medical provider. Prior to that, I had worked in either Level II emergency departments or at AZ rural sites, including the Navajo Nation. I also direct a free primary care clinic staffed entirely by volunteers. I founded Peacework Medical for those who cannot access health care insurance due to their documentation status as new immigrants. Peacework Medical is now 21 years old.
What drew you to locum tenens work?
Wilderness Medical is responsive and nimble as an organization. This means that, as the provider, my basic needs get met for assignments: travel, pay, and the occasional sudden changes are dealt with when these events invariably occur. Simply put, I’ve never been lost in the shuffle, and I get to just do my best work without a lot of administrative hassle.
What have you enjoyed most about your locum tenens experiences?
The most enjoyable part of this job is the people – both patients and co-workers. You think it would be the locations since these are sometimes stunning geographically. But for me, it’s always ultimately about who inhabits these remote, beautiful, sometimes unforgiving landscapes.
What surprised you the most about your locum tenens experiences?
It’s surprising how varied the assignments are. No two villages are quite the same, and definitely, no two clinics are the same. I recently accepted an assignment in “the Lower 48”, and wow, this was really surprising! I had truly forgotten the “comforts” of small-town vs. small village living and working!
How has your experience been with WMS?
It’s been a great experience. For the same reasons I chose WMS, I’ll stay. And these are the same reasons I explain to colleagues who are considering this type of work.
What stands out to you about the communities and cultures you have interacted with as a locum tenens provider?
Nearly all of the individuals who live in an Alaskan Native village, for example, have a lineage that goes back to well before recorded history in regards to location. It stands out to me that they have a relationship with the natural world that is inseparable from that lineage. Whether it’s fishing, hunting, or berry season, I witness a co-existence that is seamless, crucial, and ubiquitous.
What advice do you have for prospective locum tenens providers?
My respectful advice would be in two distinct parts: clinical and cultural. Clinical: You will likely not have the equipment or staffing you would find ideal. Therefore, flexibility is your best tool; and knowing two or three ways to do the same thing because the first way didn’t work or you did not have all the parts. Cultural: Never forget that you’re a visitor, and you’ve been invited into someone’s community. Remain humble – we are just there for a short time and doing a job we’ve been asked to do.
What’s the most interesting thing that you learned while on assignment?
That they really DO drive motor vehicles across [bays] in AK when the bay freezes. So I asked the clinic receptionist, “What happens if the first guy of the season goes out too soon?” She laughed and said, “Oh yeah, that was my stupid husband last year.” She continued typing. I waited a few seconds… “And?” “They got him with a boat. But we lost the four-wheeler. Sheesh.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
No regrets. Do this!