Trevor Cabrera, MD, is a pediatrician who works locum tenens full-time. In this article, he shares his tips on how to make your time on the road a rewarding social experience.
I’ve always been an extroverted person. Throughout my life, I have served on committees for social events and helped organize many extracurricular activities. Interacting with other people gives me energy. It’s a vital part of a well-rounded life for me — especially considering the stressful job I have as a physician. However, when you’re moving from one place to another frequently, it can be difficult to establish consistent relationships with people and to have a recreational life outside of work. Free time becomes precious, and as an outsider, first impressions can make or break you. Furthermore, it can take a large amount of energy to motivate yourself to explore during your brief time off. Then again, many of the providers I’ve met who work locum tenens have adventurous souls as a baseline.
From work acquaintances to lifelong friends
Most of the time you spend at a job site as a locum tenens provider will be at the hospital or clinic. Occasionally, I’ve had jobs that have been gracious enough to schedule in a day off here or there. But by and large — as we help to fill gaps of care — we’re usually working quite a bit. As such, I’ve spent a significant amount of time getting to know other healthcare providers at the hospital — from nurses to other doctors to hospital administrators. I’ve opened myself to establishing fresh relationships at each site where I’ve worked. Of course, this starts off professionally but often grows to deeper connections. By being open to learning about their lives and towns — and taking a genuine interest— I have been fortunate enough to make lifelong relationships all over the country.
I will never forget going with a group of coworkers to a winery with zonkeys in Texas or to dinner and a brewery with the hospital administrators in Maine overlooking a sea of evergreens. I’ve been invited to birthdays and folkloric dances in the desert of New Mexico. Additionally, outside of work, I’ve made some great friends being a regular at certain small restaurants or coffee shops in town on my days off. I have gotten to know the manager at the hotels where I’ve stayed — I was even invited to the staff Christmas party at one spot! Now, it may not fit everyone to be as much of a social butterfly as myself, but it’s one of the main things that keeps me sane. Be open to conversations with a stranger and you’ll be surprised how welcoming people can be!
Live like the locals
Getting to know a new town and figuring out what to do for fun is one of my favorite parts of being a traveling pediatrician. From discovering the best El Salvadoran food in an unexpected southern town, to exploring local frozen lakes in the wake of a nor’easter, to finding the best sunset in the Great Plains, I have found that the best way to explore a new town is to view it through the eyes of the locals.
Wherever I go, I’m sure to ask everyone I meet what their favorite things are to do — whether it’s the concierge at the hotel, the front desk agent at the car rental desk, or a college student on the airplane going home to visit. Asking opens your eyes to authentic experiences and hidden gems. I make a bucket list for every new place I go to and try make the time to check one off each day.
Take time for yourself
When I started working exclusively locum tenens, I would often jump from one job to the next with a very short layover in between. Over time, I’ve learned to schedule in an extra day or two to explore the surrounding areas. This has allowed me to truly take in the surrounding sights and have some time to myself to relax before, after, and in between assignments. Instead of taking big trips back home, this approach allows me to really sink my teeth into whichever town or state I’m in. It has allowed me to broaden my adventures to see historic monuments, national parks, and once in a lifetime wonders. Working exclusively as a locum tenens provider keeps me very busy, but being open to new people and places has enriched my life.