Have you ever wanted to get off the beaten path to travel, revitalize the passion for your career, and experience another culture? Dr. Sara Jalali chose exactly that when she lined up a six-month international locum tenens assignment in Whanganui, New Zealand, through Global Medical Staffing.
“It feels like a working holiday. I just love seeing the country!” says Dr. Jalali.
Dr. Jalali first contemplated international locum tenens after hearing about it at a conference during her residency. Over the years, she kept coming back to the idea, and eventually took steps to make it a reality.
Her only regret? This assignment lasts only six months.
A family affair
As part of putting the assignment into motion, Dr. Jalali’s husband took a sabbatical from work in order to join her.
“He just can't rest, so he ended up doing a couple pro bono projects for local organizations here in Whanganui,” she says with a laugh. “I joke that he’ll run for mayor one day because he seems to know everyone.” He also took time in New Zealand to pursue a passion: building a guitar."
Today I stopped by our neighbor's wood shop to see my husband's progress building a bass under the guidance of Kevin, a luthier. Whanganui is a very artistic town with opportunities for classes in woodworking, ceramics, glass blowing, and just about anything else you want to try!
Discovering gorgeous vistas and yummy foods
Dr. Jalali and her husband love Whanganui’s beauty and its artistic culture. It makes for an ideal home, even if only for a half year.
Check out this sunset view from our home. We feel so lucky to look out the window and see the famous Whanganui River snaking around the city to our left, and lush green hills with sheep, donkeys, chickens, and horses to our right! This town has a perfect blend of rural and urban vibes.
They’ve extensively explored the town, made many friends, and delighted in the local cuisine, which Dr. Jalali calls “truly farm-to-table fresh.”
Check out this photo from an egg shop where you can pick your eggs based on size, single or double yolk, free range, etc. On that note, not far from here you can get unpasteurized milk out of a vending machine!
In order to travel all over New Zealand, Dr. Jalali works a stretch of shifts over two weeks, then takes advantage of a week or more off. After the assignment, they plan to see Fiji and Australia as well.
Medicine that matters
New Zealand allows doctors to spend more time with patients and provide care to those who truly need it, something Dr. Jalali finds refreshing.
“The people are lovely — so appreciative, patient, and kind. Patients often tell me, ‘You can send me home; you guys are busy, and other patients need this bed more than I do,’ ” says Dr. Jalali.
Because of this, the assignment has helped revitalize her passion for medicine.
“Only three years out of residency, I already started feeling burned out. Coming here has reminded me why I went into emergency medicine in the first place. This is what I always thought practicing in my field would entail.”
The clinics and hospitals where locum tenens physicians work make sure that new staff quickly get indoctrinated into the new culture through cultural training, along with the ongoing help of cultural liaisons.
Meet two valuable colleagues in the Emergency Department: Ren and Kiri, liaisons for our Maori Health Services who assist our multidisciplinary teams with family-centered care, discharge planning, and community services. Their invaluable support facilitates relationships between patients, families, and staff.
“Oh, and the ED facilities are absolutely first-rate,” she adds. “The technology is even more up to date than the big name hospitals in the U.S. that I came from!”
Dr. Jalali urges physicians to give international locum tenens a go. It delivers opportunities to travel, get a new perspective on medicine, and do meaningful work. “Just do it,” she says. “It provides such amazing experiences.”
Dr. Jalali recently took over our Instagram to share pictures from her locum tenens assignment in New Zealand. Head over to our Instagram page to see all her photos.
Interested in starting your own international locum tenens adventure? Browse our current opportunities by clicking the button below. Or give us a call at 1.800.760.3174. We're always here to answer any questions you might have.
Locums for a Small World Blog
What inspires you most in this life? Ask that question to any number of people across many professions and you’ll probably get a different answer each time. Pose that same inquiry to a room full of doctors and we imagine that some aspect of their answers will include the words “helping others.”
Go ahead. Take a minute to answer that question for yourself. In fact, to go about it a slightly different way: what inspired you to become a doctor? Don’t limit it to just one reason, either. To gain medical knowledge and a comprehensive, problem-solving skillset all in an effort to heal others and be of service to society is a noble – albeit arduous – pursuit. But that’s only one component of your answer, right?
We know your desires go deeper because all of our reasons for choosing our unique career paths in life go deeper. Perhaps for you it is the altruism, or your insatiable interest in science and medicine, or that it’s a well-respected field, or you come from a family of doctors, or that it’s a stable career path with great earning potential. Heck, it could very well be all of the above or an entirely different answer altogether.
But at the end of a demanding day in an industry where burnout rates are on the rise and patient care never stops sometimes you have to remind yourself of your reasons in order to stay afloat. Other days you need a little more motivation outside of mentally cataloguing why you started in the first place.
A change in scenery is just what, well, you ordered. And we mean that as conceptual as possible. Something as seemingly small as going for a daily walk or something much bigger like taking that huge vacation you’ve been wanting to for years. Or something even more crucial like changing career paths, finally trying out locum tenens for want of the perks you’re afforded. All three of those “changes in scenery” can be accomplished all at once. In other words you could go for a daily walk in an idyllic island country by taking an international locum tenens assignment.
In an effort to see whether or not you’re at a point in your life where taking a medical job overseas makes sense we’ve come up with these three foolproof questions that will help clear your mind. They’re not scientific by any means; they’re simply honest questions that we’ve compiled from all our years of sending doctors abroad.
First and foremost, do you feel burnt out? (Y/N)
We suspect that you’ve heard at least some form of burnout talk – whether colloquially or as a real condition at some point in you’re medical career. Maybe you’ve already experienced some symptoms yourself. Keep in mind that it’s not a phenomenon that solely affects the medical field, either. Many professionals have been impacted by burnout.
Christina Maslach, a Stanford social psychologist, developed a cohesive assessment tool many years ago concerning professional burnout. It’s called Maslach Burnout Inventory and it addresses three general scales:
- Emotional exhaustion: Measures feelings of being emotionally overextended and exhausted by one’s work;
- Depersonalization: Measures an unfeeling and impersonal response toward recipients of one’s service, care treatment, or instruction;
- Personal accomplishment: Measures feelings of competence and successful achievement in one’s work.
If you feel emotionally overextended, dispassionate about your work, or have a low sense of personal accomplishment then you may be feeling symptoms of burnout. These are real issues that should be taken seriously. And there are solutions out there outside of an international locum tenens assignment: take time to seek out professional help (yes even doctors need someone to talk to), get restful sleep, exercise frequently, etc. (You can find out more about solutions here.) If you’ve tried everything you can think of then maybe a change of scenery is what you need next.
Have you recently gained more free time in your personal life? (Y/N)
There’s no doubt about it; the road to becoming a physician is physically, emotionally and financially demanding to say the least. And that’s not counting the balancing act you have to perform with your personal life along the way.
But let’s say life is slowing down a bit. Maybe you’re still living the bachelor life right out of residency and you want to experience an adventure in New Zealand before you take on a full-time pursuit in the States. Or maybe you’re nearing retirement and considering a sabbatical of sorts in Australia. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re mid-career and your kids want a new experience, too. (The public school systems down under are top-notch and they do accept foreign students often.)
Do you want more freedom in your schedule and control over your work life? (Y/N)
Who is really going to say no to that? Locum tenens gives physicians of all specialties the ability to go where they're needed. And there are a lot of needs around the world. There are limitations at times (e.g., if a position closes or if a need doesn't currently exist in a specific location) but for the most part you get control over where you want to practice and when. On top of that you get more freedom to treat patients. That means you spend less time handling paperwork and processes typically associated with a non-locum-tenens pursuit.
If you answered yes to any of these questions then a medical adventure overseas may be just the journey for you. But if you're still feeling indecisive then we’d like to throw these last two queries your way:
Do you want to see how doctors in different countries deliver care, in other words, would you like to diversify your medical knowledge? (Y/N)
Do you enjoy travel and experiencing other cultures? (Y/N)
It’s possible that all of this has left you with even more ambivalence. Never fear. Our physician placement specialists are here to help. Pick up the phone and give us a call. Or if you're ready to start looking now then click the orange button below to see what opportunities are available.
By now in your medical career you may have read something about the burnout epidemic currently afflicting a lot of physicians. Our guess is you’re probably just as tired of hearing about physician burnout as you are tired of experiencing it yourself. But suffice it to say you’re not unique in your exhaustion. Simply put burnout isn’t inextricably bound to healthcare providers. This type of career stress impacts many professionals among many industries and fields. Just check out this article on LoveToKnow.com identifying other occupations with high burnout rates.
Yes you will see that physicians do top the list. In fact, in 2011 a national study was conducted by the American Medical Association and the Mayo Clinic to “evaluate the prevalence of burnout and physicians’ satisfaction with work-life balance compared to the general U.S. population…” What were the findings? “At the time of that study, approximately 45 percent of U.S. physicians met criteria for burnout,” the study authors wrote. This is “attributed in part due to the demands and stress of patient care, long hours and increasing administrative burdens associated with practicing medicine.”
But let’s not focus on what we already know in the statistics; let’s direct our attention to addressing the causes. Because, rest assured, there’s a different way to look at this. Instead of seeing job burnout solely as a problem, see it as an opportunity to change directions.
You’re experiencing burnout for your own personal reasons, right? Sure, the statistics of physician burnout are there; still you have your unique experiences that lead to your very own type of burnout.
Tell you what let’s do this. Grab a piece of paper and take a minute to write down at least five reasons – that may or may not fall in line with the statistics – on why you’re experiencing stress in your current position. Do any of these fit the bill?
- You're experiencing lack of control in decision-making.
- You don't have an ideal work-life balance.
- You don't have enough face-to-face time with your patients.
- There are too many administrative tasks throughout the day.
- Your own self-care may be coming up short due to all of the above.
Some of these reasons impact professionals in many industries (i.e., lack of control in decision-making, not an ideal work-life balance, self-care may be coming up short) but the rest do fall more firmly in the field of healthcare. What do we do in everyday life when a problem – big or small – comes up? We fix it, don’t we?
Now take that piece of paper, throw it in the trash and grab another piece. Or rather write it in your notes app on your phone. Think about what your ideal physician job looks like and jot down some of the finer points. Is it much the opposite of the list above, stuff like more control in decision-making, more time spent with family and passions outside of work, more time with patients, less administrative tasks? If that’s your list then you probably know that self-care is going to fall out of that.
We’re not here to promise you that an international locum tenens opportunity will take care of all these issues; we’re just saying that to be mindful of your stresses is the first, most important step in addressing physician burnout, or rather, your own burnout.
You may be able to mediate these symptoms by simply bringing them to the foreground within the medical facility you’re working. Don’t do anything drastic. Just focus on lowering your stress levels by opening up communication on what’s bothering you in your current position. Dike Drummond, MD, addresses some of the more particular stresses that physicians face and how to solve them in this article on AAFP.org. It's a great read.
If you still deem it an uphill battle it may be time for a change. Again, regardless of career or industry, we all face a point in time where we must choose to move in a different direction. Consider the benefits of an international locum tenens opportunity when you’re faced with physician burnout. Here are just a few:
- There’s more patient care and less paperwork.
- You get to choose when and where you want to practice medicine.
- You’ll have the ability to see how physicians in different practice settings and different countries deliver care.
- Locum tenens helps you build a strong CV. (Think of the experience abroad as well as the ability to develop a unique skillset in a diverse background.)
- Lastly, you’ll get to explore landscapes and cultures you never thought possible.
Go ahead and read more about the advantages to the locum tenens lifestyle. Or another recommended read is 4 common misconceptions about the locum tenens lifestyle.
Again, we’re not here to tell you that the sole solution to all your problems is locum tenens because it’s not. You really do have to address why you’re feeling physician burnout and if the symptoms can be remedied by a locum tenens assignment overseas then great. But focus on why you’re burnt out in the first place. The point is to identify the cause (or causes) then seek out a solution. As a physician that process should be second nature anyways, just apply it to yourself. While you're at it don’t forget to view current international locum tenens opportunities with the click of a button below.