Pediatrician Trevor Cabrera, MD, offers his tips on how to make your locum tenens housing for your assignment feel more like a home away from home.
Some of the most common yet difficult to answer questions I face as a nomadic locum tenens pediatrician are, “Where is your home base?” or “Where do you call home?”
In short, there isn’t a home base. Home is where I lay my head to rest, which might be in a hotel, a tiny apartment, or I suppose even the call room of a busy hospital. But as I thought about it, I realized that if I bring these five things with me on assignment, my locum tenens housing will feel like home.
Choosing the full-time locums life
While most providers will work locums as adjuncts to full-time jobs or only intermittently balanced against social or family life, I made an aggressive move to make locums my full-time job – and when I say full-time, what I mean is “nonstop.” As such, I find myself traveling constantly from one job to the next, with only one to two days off in between. I chose this grueling schedule, which totals only an average of four days off per month.
Full-time locums means a lot of time away from home
Since my assignments are generally no more than two weeks or 15 consecutive shifts, I find my time at each job and new location to be very fleeting. Even so, I become attached to the people I work with and the patients I serve, but find my focus becomes less and less on material things, as well as an attachment to where I rest when I’m not at work.
The longest continuous journey I’ve taken on the road prior to coming back to visit my home base at my mother’s house in California was 123 consecutive days. This left me with an optimistic 14 days off, of which eight were used for travel. Needless to say, finding ways to adapt and maintain some sense of normalcy despite my erratic schedule becomes a constant challenge.
There’s no place like my home — away from home
I don’t need much to make a place seem like home. I travel relatively lightly and my traveling dressers — aka my suitcases — contain everything I truly need. Yet, there are five things I bring on assignment to each place I go for some semblance of normalcy to keep me sane.
1. My travel kitchen
Although I sometimes stay at extended stay kind of hotels, some jobs are in such small towns that this isn’t an option. So, as an amateur chef, being able to bring my mini portable kitchen from place to place, complete with my favorite chef’s knife, allows me to cook and make simple things on the go. This always brings me back to the days of having a consistent full kitchen.
2. A birthday card from my mom
Although most medicine is now rooted in technological databases, there are a few textbooks I’m sure to always bring with me for reference, and my birthday card from my mom easily fits inside. It takes up no physical space but carries so much emotional purpose.
3. A blanket, a pillow, and a candle
It’s comforting to snuggle up with and watch a movie, and when you close your eyes a scent can be all you need to transport you back home.
4. A framed picture of family or friends
After a long day at work, going back to an empty hotel room can be as lonely as it is relaxing. Being able to turn your gaze to a picture of loved ones as you drift off to sleep can help decompress a day of stress.
5. Lazy clothes
We all need an off day here or there, and there’s nothing more that makes you feel at home than relaxing in your “lazy day” clothes. Whether it’s Sunday morning cartoons or sleeping in, when I put on my baggy elephant pants I haggled for at a market in Thailand, I rewind instantly to the days of laying on the couch in my old apartment after a busy week.
At the end of the day, I suppose home is what you make of it and anywhere can be made to feel homey. As a full-time locums, bringing these little reminders to your locum tenens housing can help to offset the hustle and bustle of a busy traveling life.