Back Veteran NP Chooses Locum Travel to Expand Her Education

Veteran NP Chooses Locum Travel to Expand Her Education

By Joseph Duffy, contributor

Lacinda “Cindy” O’Steen, ARNP, BC-FNP, has worked in healthcare for more than 30 years, and she’s never been satisfied with just maintaining the status quo. After more than two decades of working as a registered nurse, she became a nurse practitioner in 2012 and earned her board certification in family practice in 2015. Then she started traveling as a locum tenens in 2017.

Why the decision to become a traveling NP? She was working for a physician in urgent care in an affluent section of northern Florida where she found herself seeing the same patient demographic presenting the same problems and requiring similar solutions. 

“I realized that if I were going to grow as a provider and discover new things, I was going to have to travel out of my boundaries,” she said. “And if I didn’t, I was going to know only what I knew from my little three-mile district.”

See where locum tenens assignments could take you.

The benefits of locum tenens travel

So Cindy looked into locum tenens assignments in a variety of locations. She has since worked all over New York State, including numerous locations in Manhattan, as well as Boston, California, and Florida. 

“I feel as though I'm a better provider for traveling,” she said. “I have learned a lot. I picked up much more in one assignment than I could have ever learned in a classroom.”

Another benefit of locum travel for Cindy is that it has given her time to take supplemental courses that she said make her license stronger. She has earned a certificate in palliative care, menopause, and hormone health.

Along with the motivation to further educate herself, Cindy realized that the more she traveled, the more she enjoyed visiting new places.

“I'm much more in the adventure-seeking mindset now than I was then,” she said. “When I first started traveling, I was just learning. I wanted to absorb everything I possibly could. Now, it's all about, ‘Where can I go?’”

“I feel like I have a lot to offer. I've learned a lot, and now I want to share it,” she said.

Working as a locum provider during COVID-19

Cindy was on a locum tenens assignment in Manhattan when COVID-19 began to appear. She was working at an urgent care clinic right next to the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, which would soon become overrun with coronavirus cases. She knew something unusual was happening, based on the number of very sick patients they were seeing. Soon after she left that assignment for California, she learned that COVID was ravaging New York City.

After learning about COVID’s grip on Manhattan, Cindy returned and started a two-month assignment at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Like so many other healthcare workers, she chose to work on the front lines fighting the virus, despite the danger, and did her part to help save lives.

New assignments with a new locum agency

After her assignment in New York, Cindy went home, and soon received a call from Locum Leaders recruiter Susan Bermudah. 

“I appreciated how direct Susan was about the opportunity,” she said. “She told me what the job entailed, what I would do, where I would stay, when it would start, and what I’d be paid. It was very professional, unlike many travel companies I’ve talked to in the past.”

Cindy accepted her first assignment with Locum Leaders and headed to Hobe Sound, Florida, to work a charity golf tournament for 10 days. Celebrities included Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady, who were raising money for COVID-19 relief funds. 

She was part of the team that tested all players and tournament workers for the coronavirus.

From there, Cindy did COVID-19 testing at a Florida university. Her experience was so well regarded that they wanted to add more responsibilities to her job description. So Cindy talked to Susan about the added duties, and her recruiter was able to get her a higher pay rate.

“Not all travel companies are the same,” Cindy said. “I've traveled with several, but there have only been two that I felt like I was cared for, and Locum Leaders is one of them. I felt like I could call and say what was going on, or this was a problem, or that was a problem, and it was fixed before I could even finish my sentence.”

“That's important, because when you're leaving your home, if you can't trust the company that you're with, it's just unnecessary stress,” she added.

Future plans 

After her last locum tenens assignment, Cindy started her own telehealth business, which she said wouldn’t have been possible without the experience she has gained from traveling. But she’s not done seeing the country just yet. She is looking forward to another assignment soon that will get her back on the road. 

Although she notes that isolation during COVID can be difficult for those working away from home, she feels it’s a great time for nurse practitioners and other providers to be taking locum assignments.

“I wouldn't know what I know today without traveling,” Cindy noted. “And I didn't know how much I knew until a doctor I used to work with now calls or texts to ask me questions, such as ‘How did they handle this when you were here?’ Also, I have educated the critical care teams at major hospitals on the treatments for COVID-19, and these teams are comprised of internal medicine physicians.”

“When you travel, people know you're picking up invaluable knowledge,” she concluded.

LOCUM LEADERS has part-time and full-time locum tenens assignments across the country, for physicians, nurse practitioners and other advanced practice providers.