I often reflect on where I am and how I got here. From moving across the country multiple times, to sitting in this small town at a small coffeeshop writing this in Huntsville, Texas, one thing is clear: Although I can’t deny that a large part of my path has been a product of hard work and shear luck, a larger contributor at this point has been Risk, and taking It.
…the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes, the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big, and then you take the house.– Danny Ocean (Ocean’s 11)
Maybe not the BEST analogy, but I do feel like going along with the “House” rules and taking a tried and true path would have been a much safer and stable route than gambling on the perfect hand.
Jumping into the world of working exclusively as a locum tenens provider amidst the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the riskiest moves I’ve made in my career. I calculated all of the variables, I dreamt up plans and itineraries of how things would work out. I wrote down notes and looked over and over again at calendars and spreadsheets to see how it would work out. I tried to justify to myself that my projected benefits could outweigh my risks and place me at an advantageous point compared to my peers. If I was able to get all of the work I wanted, I could pay off my loans 4-5 times faster than anyone I know… IF…
In July of 2020, I graduated my Pediatric Residency after spending weeks preparing myself for the uncertain, talking to multiple locum tenens agencies for the preceding FOUR months and counting every dollar I spent and saved in preparation of almost certain unemployment and I jumped.
I had made sure to save up 3 months of an “emergency fund” and was ultimately saved from bankruptcy due to the initial pause on my federal student loans which has to this day continued to help me from falling completely off the wagon. I would call and text my recruiters DAILY looking for work. ANYWHERE. FOR MONTHS. I was the perfect candidate. I would go anywhere, I would do anything, the only thing I lacked was being Board Certified and the ability to do circumcisions (both things that have changed).
Alas. There. Was. Nothing.
Then, last minute at the end of JULY, I was called up by my awesome recruiter David and told about Huntsville, Texas and how they needed help for ONE shift. It was soon and I needed to get loads of paperwork done. It was for a lot of money compared to residency, but not enough to pay the bills; but, it was definitely better than sitting around doing extreme couponing so I could maintain my food-driven lifestyle, so I took it. I accepted a lower rate than my competitors knowing I was lower on the totem pole for the position. I had to be aggressive, I am still aggressive.
As I entered AUGUST, I was lucky enough to receive a call from a local group needing help at a clinic in Montgomery, Texas, but only for 2-3 days per week. Thanks to a fantastic and sweet Nurse Practitioner, Anita, and a very understanding Clinic Manager, Lisa, I was able to somehow continue fitting in Huntsville shifts for the next 4 months. There were many weeks in which I would drive up one day to Montgomery, drive straight after up to Huntsville, back the next day to Montgomery and then back to Houston. Somehow the puzzle pieces began to fit together. If it wasn’t for Lisa and Anita’s flexibility, despite throwing off some of the clinic’s consistency, I may have had to quit Locums back then…
Then DECEMBER hit, and I was no longer needed at the clinic due to a contract finalizing for a new permanent provider. I was successful in securing 10 days of work in Bay City, Texas but I looked at my schedule and had no other jobs coming up outside of Huntsville for 2021… Nothing, again. Talking to my recruiters, due to COVID-19, there were still not many jobs. In the entire month of JANUARY, I was successful in securing only 11 shifts in Huntsville. I was ecstatic to have made a good enough impression to be asked back amongst the other competitors and was able to negotiate a mild improvement to my salary, albeit still knowingly less than the others. But, it was barely enough if loans started requiring repayment. Luckily, with the new administration, student loans were again frozen until later in 2021.
I sat there looking ahead from my dream of being the “Nomadic Pediatrician” and started to ask myself very seriously if it was time to give up and look for a contract working as an Outpatient Pediatrician, which to this day is still not my preference 😅 – I belong in a Hospital.
After lots of thinking, I decided to wait a little longer and kept pushing. I received my Board Certification, held out a little longer, and a job popped up for Central Maine – only for a couple of days. Simultaneously, out of the blue, a job I had applied to with my agent in October popped back open for a chance to work in New Mexico. I didn’t hesitate, hopped on a plane for an interview and went to visit Deming. Their offer was for a Permanent (even if Part-time) provider – not quite my dream of a locum jobs – and given the paucity of work still into 2021, I said Yes.
When MARCH came along, the logistics of unit coverage changed at Huntsville and the gates opened up for me to work as many days as I physically could. Again, I said yes and worked my first intense stretch of Twenty-Four Days In-a-Row – don’t get me wrong, it’s not AS bad as it sounds since I’m on “out-of-house” call going in only when needed, but it does raise your baseline blood pressure to be on call 24/7 knowing that at any minute a baby could come crashing out… But, it was nice to have a good amount of work, after 8 months of pushing.
Fast forward, and it’s JUNE.
So, after the rollercoaster of employment and unemployment and the last year…
Where are My now?
It is now almost 12 months since I worked my first and only shift in Huntsville, TX. I came up for ONE and only ONE promised shift and worked my way into an entire YEAR. The Pediatric job market is still dangerously crippled by COVID-19 but normalcy is slowly approaching. Do not be fulled to believe that doctors were NOT also affected by COVID-19 – many Pediatricians in fact lost their jobs due to the huge drop-off in visits. For the first time in 12 months, I finally have an entirely full schedule for the next few months with only a couple of days off. The future is still absolutely uncertain, but I love the adventure and the travel, and I can not believe that the risk is starting to finally pay off in a major way.
Who knows what will come next, but so far it’s been worth the risk.