Get Off the Carousel: Locum Tenens Home Health Offers Freedom and Flexibility

Posted on: July 27, 2016

written by

Evan Wade

For many healthcare professionals, the initial decision to join the industry doesn’t come from a single benefit so much as a combination of factors. Prestige, financial compensation, and the ability to truly help people are just three reasons a pre-med student might plan to enter the field, for instance.

Flexibility and variety, on the other hand, are a practiced professional’s perks. As you grow your skill set and experience, you come to understand just how valuable the ability to change things up truly is.

Along with all the normal facets of a fulfilling medical career, home health offers just that, making it a great match for physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners who frequently find themselves searching for something new — and even those who don’t. Here’s why.

The Carousel Effect

Most professional settings offer some variety as a matter of course. Regardless of your specialty, it’s not like two days are ever exactly the same. There are new patients, all of whom have different personalities, symptoms, and histories.

Even then, though, the patients are only one part of the equation. Call it the “carousel effect”: The people may change, but the background is the same every time.

This, in turn, is part of the reason “spending too many hours at work” is cited as a leading cause of physician burnout in this Barton infographic. If the hours matter, and they certainly do, so too does where you spend them. Encountering the same minor irks and inescapable problems over and over — as if you’re on a carousel — can turn even the smallest qualms into seething sore points over time.

Mastering Your Destiny

Considering this, it’s no surprise that sources ranging from the above-linked, statistic-backed infographic to more humorous “insider” takes like this Nurse Together article all list time away from work as a serious stress-reduction tool. And it’s a good start. Beyond that, many of the most common burnout-inducing complaints seem to have to do with time in general: how it’s used in the office, how administrative staff respect it with regard to scheduling and booking, and so forth.

Medical professionals are problem solvers, and they don’t suffer illogical practices at the individual or organizational level very well. When faced with, say, an employer who chronically overbooks or a scheduling supervisor who doesn’t understand why they can’t function on three hours of sleep between three consecutive twelve-hour shifts — and when voicing these complaints does nothing — the embers of burnout start to glow.

In other words, highly trained, highly intelligent professionals want more control over their time. Who’d have figured?

Home Health Gives NPs the Chance to Focus on Whole Health

If the “carousel effect” and more logical use of your time rank high among your professional concerns, locum tenens can work wonders. The same can be said for professionals who are happy with their current location but are always on the lookout for something better.

For more on why locum tenens attracts top clinicians, read "Living La Vida Locum: What Clinicians Love About Locum Tenens Roles."

Home health is one obvious candidate here, particularly for nurse practitioners. Instead of taking patient after patient on the same carousel ride, you get to meet and care for people in the most natural setting possible: their homes. That’s a major boon for NPs who thrive on forging strong bonds with the people they care for; moreover, the inherent variety and flexibility of a home-care schedule also come with plenty of autonomy, making it a great track for the motivated self-starter personality so commonly found among high-level nurses.

This style of care also significantly reduces the high-pressure, high-volume waiting room culture NPs and other professionals tend to face in a standard office setting. Instead of burning through a backlog of overbooked patients — and treating them only for the very specific conditions they’ve visited for — NPs in home-health roles can focus on the entirety of the patient’s health. If you’ve ever felt stressed about asking a patient to schedule another appointment for an unrelated problem they bring up in an office visit, you understand the value in that statement.

Of course, none of this is to say home-health professionals work alone or in a vacuum. Nurse practitioners are the “tip of the spear” in a home-health setting, visiting patients and recommending courses of care. Their charts — which can be completed on-site or afterward, from the comfort of their home or hotel room — are generally reviewed by a supervising physician, depending on the laws of the state in which they’re working. This adds an extra layer of oversight and opinion to the process.

And while these NPs may not report back to a “home base” often or at all, they still have the benefit of a backing agency in a locum tenens arrangement: If you run into an issue, a call to your account manager is all it takes to find a resolution.

Sure, the lifestyle takes some adjustment if you’re used to working in a single location. Visiting “home base” infrequently, doing charting off-site, and providing care from patients’ homes can make for some initial culture shock. That said, these changes come with a certain familiarity: You may find that visiting multiple patients (and having the freedom to treat them holistically) is a lot like a regular clinical setting, only with more flexibility — and, often, a lot less pressure!

Physicians and PAs in Home-Health Settings

Physicians can work in home health if they prefer, but they most frequently sign home-health orders after an initial consultation and review charts from the NPs and PAs who visit patients. While they may not experience the variety that comes with visiting patients in their homes, these professionals still provide oversight that makes the entire process possible.

Physicians and PAs on locum tenens assignments almost always assume a critical role within the healthcare organizations they support. Locum tenens professionals are desperately needed — enough so that they’re flown all over the country to assist short-staffed hospitals and practices. This aspect of locum tenens work comes with a lot of variety (and a considerable ego boost) on its own.

Need info about travel arrangements? Read "Traveling With Pets on Your Locums Assignments."

And the benefits go deeper than that. Temporary work carries a certain professional comfort in knowing you won’t be at a given location long. This can make illogical staffing policies and toxic office politics bearable, on the rare occasion that they strike. And again, the staffing company is always available to help resolve issues before they become full-blown problems.

Along with the ability to pick and choose one’s jobs, this results in a great combination of factors for a physician or PA: the ability to apply your skills for patients and organizations who need them most, with the freedom, flexibility, and variety needed to stave off burnout.

The On-the-Go Revolution

Whether you’re concerned about burnout or just looking at other options, don’t limit your search to traditional workplaces. Locum tenens takes a lot of forms, and almost all of them help with the “carousel effect” by nature. Talk to your colleagues, do some independent research, and keep an open mind throughout the process. Chances are, you’ll like what you find.

Are you interested in trying a home-health job? Check out our open positions.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is a professional writer, journalist, and editor based in Indianapolis. He has extensive experience in news, feature, and copy writing in the healthcare field, with specialties in technology, human-interest stories, and addiction science. Contact him on Twitter: @wadefreelance.

More Content Like This