The Ultimate Rural Locum Tenens Tip Guide

Working as a locum in rural areas is particularly rewarding because this line of work addresses critical healthcare shortages, offers diverse medical experiences, and fosters personal and professional growth. Providers often build strong community connections, enjoy scenic settings, and receive competitive compensation. These assignments also present opportunities for adventure and tangible impact on underserved communities, making rural locum tenens work both fulfilling and enriching. So, how can you make the most of these rewarding locum experiences? We have created the ultimate rural locum tenens tip guide just for you!

Preparation Tips from the Ultimate Rural Locum Tenens Tip Guide

The first step in preparing for your rural assignment is to ensure that all your credentials, licenses, and related training are current. This includes renewing expiring licenses, completing necessary continuing education courses, and updating certifications such as ATLS (Advanced Trauma Life Support) or PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support). Having these in order ensures that you are ready to start your assignment without delays and helps prevent any scheduling or placement conflicts that could arise from incomplete documentation. Additionally, consider familiarizing yourself with any state-specific requirements or local regulations that may differ from your usual practice setting. We provide a comprehensive list of required documentation and explain how these requirements may vary by state. View this list here.

Understanding the Community and Culture

After securing your assignment, it’s essential to research the location thoroughly, especially if it’s new to you. Start by learning about the community’s culture, demographics, and local amenities. Understanding cultural norms and traditions will help you to be a respectful visitor and a highly-welcomed healthcare professional. This cultural competence can lead to stronger patient-provider relationships and improved patient outcomes. For an in-depth look at cultural competency and knowledge, see our Diversity in Rural Healthcare blog. While it’s wise to conduct your own research, at WMS, we are committed to providing additional information if you take an assignment with us. Unlike some staffing agencies that may not offer extra details, we understand the importance of being well-informed and ensuring you won’t go to a new place completely blind.

Knowing about local events, recreational activities, and amenities allows you to plan enjoyable downtime activities, helping you feel more connected to the community. Participate in community events, visit local markets, and try regional foods to immerse yourself in the local culture. This involvement enhances your personal experience and shows the community that you are more than just a temporary healthcare provider; you are an engaged and invested visitor.

Weather, Climate, and Environmental Awareness

Equally important is understanding the weather and climate for the time of year you’ll be there. For example, knowing whether to expect snow or high temperatures will inform what clothing and gear to pack to stay comfortable. Climate-related health concerns such as heat exhaustion, frostbite, or seasonal allergies can impact your patients (and yourself!), so being aware of these issues will better prepare you to address them.

Prepare for the specific climate by packing appropriate clothing and gear. For cold climates, ensure you have thermal wear, waterproof boots, and layers to stay warm. Light clothing, sun protection, and hydration packs are essential for hot climates. Understanding the local weather patterns also helps plan your daily routine and anticipate any weather-related disruptions. For an exhaustive packing list, you can refer to our comprehensive Alaska packing guide. This guide focuses specifically on Alaska, but also offers great tips for winter packing in any of the areas we staff. For warmer climates, you’ll need to pack accordingly for the opposite conditions.

Preparing for Natural Disasters and Wildlife Encounters

Researching the local environment and ecology can be highly beneficial. For example, some areas have limited water during the dry season, so consider how you can help conserve water during your practice and stay in the community. Bringing your own drinking water might be necessary in such cases. Environmental awareness can mitigate risks and frustrations, ensuring you can meet your needs while respecting the local resources.

Being prepared for natural disasters that may happen in the area you’re working in is also crucial. At some point, you may see an influx of patients dealing with natural-disaster-related emergencies, so understanding these risks can enhance your readiness. Research common natural disasters in the area, such as blizzards, earthquakes, floods, or wildfires, and familiarize yourself with local emergency protocols.

Additionally, knowing about the wildlife your patients may encounter in certain areas and how to best treat related injuries is important. This knowledge will help you provide effective care and ensure your personal safety. For example, in areas with prevalent wildlife, understanding the types of injuries that can occur and how to treat them—such as snake bites, insect stings, or encounters with larger animals—will prepare you for a wide range of situations.

By combining cultural insights with environmental awareness, you can ensure a well-rounded preparation for your rural assignment. This comprehensive understanding will help you provide better care, adapt to the local setting, and fully embrace your new role as a locum tenens provider. Taking these steps enhances your professional efficacy and enriches your personal experience, making your assignment both impactful and rewarding.

Tips for Building Community Trust

As a healthcare provider, you already know that true medicine is more than simply administering physical aid. It is also about building relationships with your patients and, by extension, the larger community. Trust between providers and their patients is essential for effective healthcare delivery and for finding fulfillment in your work. We understand that you likely know the following information, but this is a helpful reminder of strategies our contracted providers have found to be useful in building trust:

  • Listen Actively: During appointments, ensure you are fully present, listening to patients’ concerns without interruptions. This shows that you value their input and are dedicated to understanding their issues.
  • Acknowledge Feelings: Validate patients’ emotions and experiences. Let them know their feelings are heard and respected, which can significantly enhance the provider-patient relationship.
  • Clear Explanations: Always explain medical conditions, treatment options, and procedures clearly so that patients can understand.
  • Informed Decisions: Encourage patients to ask questions and involve them in decision-making. This fosters a sense of control and partnership in their healthcare journey.
  • Individual Needs: Tailor your approach to meet each patient’s unique needs and preferences. When planning treatments, consider their medical history, cultural background, and personal preferences.
  • Continuous Learning: Stay current with the latest medical research and practices. This will improve the quality of care you provide and show your commitment to professional excellence.
  • Regular Feedback: Actively seek feedback from your patients regarding your services and their experiences. Use this feedback to make improvements and show that you value their opinions.
  • Adapt and Improve: Be open to constructive criticism and willing to adapt your practices to better meet the needs of your patients and the facility you are helping.
  • Teamwork: Work closely with local healthcare providers and integrate into the existing healthcare network. This demonstrates respect for their expertise and creates a cohesive care environment.
  • Community Involvement: Participate in community events and activities. Showing your involvement and investment in the community can enhance your credibility and trustworthiness.

Focusing on trust and implementing these strategies can help you build strong, lasting relationships with your patients and the larger community. This fosters a supportive and collaborative environment, enriching your professional journey as a locum tenens provider. Once this trust has been established, you are even more likely to be welcomed back for future assignments at that location!

Provider Well-Being Tips

Maintaining personal well-being is crucial for locum tenens providers, especially when working in demanding environments or being on-call frequently. While being present for your patients is essential, taking care of yourself is equally important. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Here are some tips to help ensure your well-being during your assignment:

Stay Connected

Connecting with friends and family is vital for emotional support and mental health. Use your smartphone to reach out via social media, text, or email. While data and Wi-Fi might be limited in some areas, consider plan options like Starlink to maintain connections for both personal and telehealth needs.

Find Social Opportunities

Isolation can be a challenge in remote assignments. Finding social opportunities is crucial. Engage in conversations with facility staff and coworkers, interact with locals outside of work hours, share meals, or attend community events. Integrating local culture into your routine can enhance your experience and help balance your work and personal life.

Establish a Well-Rounded Routine

Creating a structured routine promotes both professional performance and personal well-being. Even if you’re frequently on call, you can build a flexible schedule with broad activity time blocks, allowing adjustments based on your on-call demands. Having plans for both when you are called in and when you are not can alleviate stress and prevent burnout. With smaller rural patient volumes, you likely will not work 24/7, even if you are on call 24/7. Use this knowledge to plan accordingly and give yourself much-needed rest and relaxation!

By incorporating these tips into your routine, you can maintain your well-being and provide your patients with the best care. Stay tuned for more in-depth advice on provider mental health in an upcoming blog.


Ensuring you are well-prepared by applying some or all of these tips from our ultimate rural locum tenens tip guide can help make your assignment with WMS smooth and successful. By being certain your credentials are up-to-date, researching the location, building trust with the community, and maintaining your personal well-being, you can confidently navigate rural healthcare’s unique challenges and rewards. Our goal is to support you in providing the best care to your patients while making your assignment a positive and rewarding experience. Our Account Executives and Operations team will serve as your guides in preparing for your assignment. We do this by promoting transparency, sharing information and lessons we’ve learned, and connecting you with experienced providers where possible. Please let us know if we can be of any more help, or if you have tips that others may find beneficial!

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