Q and A: Work Life as a Traveling (Locum) Physician Assistant

Locums Physician Assistant

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1. What drew you towards becoming a traveling PA?

To be completely honest, the pay and travel. Pittsburgh can be low paying for PAs and the position I was in wasn't going to be increasing my salary drastically. Money isn't everything so to give some perspective, I was making 10k BELOW the lower 10th percentile for new grads in the state of Pennsylvania. A lot of people shy away from working as a travel PA because you are an independent contractor.  People get scared that they don't have PTO (paid time off) and they have to pay for their own health insurance. My financial advisor did the numbers for me after taking that into account and it was still way beyond financially beneficial for me.  I knew about the traveling gig for nurses and in my heart I kind of always knew it was something I would pursue.  


2. Do you get to choose your work assignment?

YES! You have 100% autonomy in where you go and what you do! I work for Barton Associates and my representative is incredible. You can choose whichever specialty you want to work in however, there are some considerations. As a new grad you have to take what you can get. You will make more in areas you have experience and certain specialties and locations pay more based on demand.   If you are new to a specialty, it may be more difficult for you to land the job but, it’s still possible.


3. What is your work schedule like?

Right now, I am a nocturnal hospital at a tertiary care & level 1 trauma center. I work 7 on 7 off 7p.m. -7a.m. At first it was quite an adjustment but the 7 days off are amazing! It makes it easy to travel especially not having the PTO (not that it REALLY matters but it still makes it nice). I take care of several medical services overnight (usually 30-40 patients).  Any issue that comes up including rapid responses and admissions are a short list of things I take care of overnight.


4. Do you have to pay for travel expenses?

No, travel is all paid for. My lodging is taken care of in advance.  I'm currently staying at a Hampton Inn and it’s really nice (my pup comes with me everywhere).  Every time I drive to work those miles are also reimbursed.  If you take a regional position and drive home every week or so, those miles are also compensated.


5. Are you required to stay at a specific site for a certain period of time?

Each site has a different contract.  The average length of time is 3-6 months.  Some shorter, some longer.  At any point in time you can put in a 30 day notice with no questions asked.  The work week or schedule for each position will likely vary.  I was contracted at my current position for 7 on 7 off nights specifically.  The next position I am looking at is a Family Practice position either 5 days for 8 hours or 4 days 10 hours each. It all depends on the site.  Right now, I'm finishing up my first position in Pennsylvania and then I'm headed to California at the end of August!


Danielle Kepics, PA-C is the operator of www.allthingsphysicianassistant.com.