Locum Life: Temporary Relationships not for the Faint of Heart

By nature of being a traveling substitute doctor, I must be adept at coming in strong yet cautious, charming yet not overbearing, and direct yet light-hearted. I sometimes have one shot to make a connection and if I don’t succeed in that small window, that could be IT. I learned quickly at my second job ever in customer service in college as a pharmacy technician, that my employment and worth to the company as a floater was directly tied to those tenants of person-ability and personality in ways that were noninferior and equally important to my technical skill and knowledge at the job. First impressions can make or break my connection with the people I’m to work with, the future of my employment and the relationship between a hospital and my entire locum agency which can later lead to difficulty with my connection with them for future jobs. I wish I could say I was immune to these effects, but I’m human and I can’t please everyone. As much as we would like, it’s impossible or unlikely that EVERYONE will like you.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look backwards at the path, I’ve already experienced both the good and bad of these things happening. I’ve had great chemistry that’s parlayed itself into a year-long endeavor, and a miscommunication which has tragically led to a follow-out very prematurely without even a second glance in a two-week stand. In the latter, I learned that unfortunately I have to be more careful than my colleagues that take permanent jobs for whom the contracts and their positions are in many ways more difficult to replace. In the latter, I learned that as a locum tenens I can be ‘ghosted’ immediately without cause nor a chance to redeem myself. One word and a simple miscommunication behind masked faces extinguished my redemption at compassion and empathy, which is, in my obviously biased opinion, unfair but reality.

On the positive side, for myself, I have found that anything that is done well or done with purpose and heart leads to an emotional connection. If one isn’t dedicated to a job, they will be less likely to be emotionally interested in it and vice versa. Longevity in one setting or place will lead to unavoidable formation of connections and relationships, whether it be good or bad. At the end of the day, by definition of what I do, each job creates a web of temporary, yet not insignificant, relationships.

In my educational life, I have jumped through the rings of ‘college’ 3 discrete times in my life – from San Diego, to New Orleans, to Houston I have been surrounded by new cohorts at each location, with frankly, not very many sticking beyond more permanently, sans 1 or 2. In my romantic life, overlooking one or two large personal regrets, I have been mostly unsuccessful at finding ‘The One’ for several years and have become accustomed to temporary relationships that come and go but aren’t anything to write home about. So now, in my professional life choosing to do Locum Tenens, I feel a familiar yet saddened vibration of ‘moving on’ to the Next.

I have realized I get attached more easily than I would have thought or potentially when I least expect to. Learning to accept these connections, cultivate them and continue them despite the fact that they will inevitably lead to some separation is difficult and not for everyone. I miss everywhere I’ve ever been and everyone I’ve ever worked with… well, mostly. Each time I move to a new location or become part of a new group of people or start a new job, I approach with walls down and reach my arms out to find that connection. The big picture goal for me is blurry and the image is recurrently fragmented into ripples in the water with each new experience that leads me to contemplate and re-adjust where I want to be and what I want to do.

I love these temporary relationships as they add to my pool of life experience, rejuvenating my resilience and perspective, lending themselves to my soul as parts to influence and guide my future decisions and interactions with the world, other humans and my patients; but, the heartbreak that comes with gliding from one to another isn’t always for a wandering cowboy, let alone the faint of heart.

I am heartbroken each time I leave great people, but add each person and each experience to the mosaic of the person that I am; for that, I am forever grateful.

I have missed many and will miss many more, but I will never forget a single one.

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