After retiring from the Tennessee mental health system, Lynn M. went to work as a psychiatric nurse practitioner in a community mental health center. Three years later, she had had enough. The high volume of patients and high-pressure environment made it hard for her to spend quality time with patients.
“There wasn’t much hope it was going to get better,” Lynn said. “The demand was too great.”
It’s a sentiment that is not uncommon among healthcare providers. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that 46 percent of physicians surveyed experienced at least one symptom of burnout. And with millions of Americans expected to obtain healthcare insurance through the Affordable Care Act, the situation is likely to get worse.
Luckily, Lynn had heard about locum tenens. The more she read about the freedom and flexibility that comes with a locum tenens career, the more the idea of a career change appealed to her. The locum lifestyle also suited her specific situation. Being semi-retired, Lynn doesn’t feel the pressure to work 52 weeks of the year, allowing her to tailor her work schedule to fit her personal situation at a given time.
So in March, 2013, Lynn left Tennessee and set out on her first locum tenens assignment in Montana. After working for four decades as a psychiatric nurse, clinical nurse specialist, hospital CEO, then psychiatric nurse practitioner, Lynn gained a brand new experience in Montana. In Tennessee, NPs need a supervisory relationship with physicians to prescribe medications and perform certain functions. In Montana, NPs are free to practice independently, without physician involvement.
“I really like this. I have plenty of support here, but the expectation is that I am working up to my scope of practice. And I like that,” she said.
Lynn admits she had slight concerns that she might not fit into the new work environment, but they were quickly alleviated.
“This assignment is tailor made for me. I have a state hospital background, and that is where I am now, so it has worked out really well.”
It’s no coincidence that the assignment was a good fit. Lynn worked with her Barton Associates recruiter, telling him what assignments she was comfortable with. She says that other NPs who are thinking of pursuing locum work should do the same.
“You have to have some sense about what it is you are and are not willing to do, and make sure the assignment seems to be a fit.”
And even if Lynn were to end up in an assignment that wasn’t a good fit, Lynn finds comfort in the fact that locum assignments are flexible.
“I like the idea of being at a place long enough to get a sense of what the community and the practice are like, but it is not such a long commitment that it is scary,” Lynn said. “I figure after 35 years in State government, I can do three months anywhere!”
Check out some pictures of Lynn’s trip to Montana: