With more than six years of experience as a locum tenens provider, Vlad Dzahshi has seen his fair share of hotels, airports and restaurants.
Whether you’re new to locum tenens positions or have decades of experience, Dzhashi dishes on all the scoop you need to know when traveling as a freelance provider.
1. TSA Pre-check is a must
If you fly more than a few times a year (most docs working locum tenens docs do), TSA precheck is a MUST. With the TSA precheck, you can save hours of your precious time at the airport. You don’t have to wait in lines going through security checkpoints and you’ll have extra time before your flight since you can come to the airport as late as one hour before your flight’s departure.
TSA precheck is a no-brainer: it costs $85 and takes only a couple of weeks to get approved after you’ve submitted your application.
2. Step up your stay
Staying comfortably is the most important part of your travel, and I’ve picked up a few hacks over the years.
The best way to vet hotels is to look them up on TripAdvisor. I would avoid any hotel that has a rating of less than 4 out of 5. Next, stay in a suite for more space. Do not hesitate to ask your staffing company to provide you with this “extra,” as the price difference is only about $20-40/night. In my experience, no locum tenens agency ever refused. But, even if they do, I would pay out of pocket. It will cost about $200-400 for a week but it is totally worth it. Also, don’t be shy about picking your room. Call the hotel in advance and ask for certain requirements (close to elevator, highest floor, etc.). Last, for longer stays, I highly recommend considering an Airbnb or furnished apartment to feel more “at home.”
3. Pack to avoid unpacking
Packing my stuff used to be a huge time-waster for me. Over the years, I figured out a way to make it short and sweet. Here’s a trick: to pack quickly, unpack as little as possible after you are back home from your trip. Basically, the only thing that you remove from your suitcase is your laundry. Everything else should stay there e.g., toiletries, gym shoes, utensils, thermos, lab coat, stethoscope, pager, and badge, etc.
4. Eat healthy while on the go
Here are a few tips that will help you to cook your own meals while traveling as a locums. First, get a hotel room with a kitchenette. The fact that you’ve got everything you need to cook will leave you with no excuses, and you will be more likely to stay on the “right track” with a healthy diet. Second, swing by the grocery store before you check in to the hotel. Again, you’ll have no excuses not to cook your own meals. And last, I highly recommend purchasing an Instant Pot. The Instant Pot is truly a “magic” machine that costs about $100, weighs nine pounds (hence it can be easily put in your luggage), and can cook healthy meals in a matter of minutes. My meals usually consist of 3 components – protein (meat or fish), greens, and a little bit of complex carbs (typically beans, lentils, quinoa, or sweet potatoes).
5. Manage your jetlag
You may think that unless you travel from Hawaii to the East Coast, the jet lag would not be a problem. But, from what I’ve noticed, even one hour difference can mess me up physically and mentally. I simply don’t have as much energy and feel “foggy.” It takes a good two to three days to get over it.
A few tips include: limit your caffeine intake on the days you travel, exercise or take a walk in the morning before your first shift starts, and use a lightpad in the morning to reset your circadian rhythm.
6. Prepare for the seasons
If you’re not from the north or Midwest, chances are you have little to no experience driving in the snow. Personally, I’ve made a lot of trips across the Washington state’s mountain passes and I know this can be tricky.
First, your car must be an SUV or a truck and it has to be all-wheel drive. You’ll be surprised but some of these cars are front or rear-wheel drive only. Also, at the very minimum, your rental should have all-season tires, and, ideally, special winter tires, as most rental companies prohibit you from using chains on their cars. And be sure to double check the tires once you pick up your rental to confirm that they are proper winter tires.
7. Mix up the scenery
Cabin fever is real! As a locum tenens, you may start to feel homesick or isolated if traveling for long periods of time away from family and friends. Fortunately, the solution is very simple: you MUST GET OUT of your hotel room and go places. Just walk outside in the park, hike in the woods and breathe some fresh air, drive around a little bit, or even better…socialize with other docs.
The key is to change the environment and your surroundings when you are off work to keep your “battery” charged and stay sane.
Are you a locum tenens looking for more tips and tricks, or are you considering the freelance industry? Check out Dr. Dzhashi’s full blog, The Locum Tenens Guy, for more helpful advice!