In honor of Nurse Practitioner Week, we’re highlighting locum tenens NP Philip Newman.
Philip Newman always knew he wanted to be a healthcare provider. So when it seemed initially that medical school wasn’t in the cards, he was attracted to the holistic nature of nurse practitioner work, and never looked back. Now that he is in medical school, locums is helping him gain experience, while still being able to balance school and being a dad.
Here’s what he had to say about juggling locums, medical school, and fatherhood:
What led you to become a nurse practitioner?
Back in high school, I wanted to be a doctor. Somewhere along the way, I got distracted by the humanities and did my undergraduate and master’s in religious studies, which was a big deviation. As I’m sure you can imagine, Religious Studies degrees don’t tend to pay the bills, so I needed to find some work to substitute.
I was trying to decide between law school and a potential PhD, when I started working a supply job in the hospital. And I fell in love with it. I realized that if I wanted to make a difference in the world, this is where I needed to be.
I had to go back to school and take all of the science classes that a Religious Studies degree, you know, doesn’t include [laughs]. I had the intention of going into medical school, and I tried for a few application cycles, but I didn’t get in.
But I always knew that I wanted to be a provider. I wanted to work at the bedside. And the more I researched it, the more I realized that nurse practitioners have a holistic approach versus just the science of treating the disease. And I wanted to treat the person.
I found a program that would fast track you to become a nurse practitioner if you had a bachelor’s in another field. So I applied and I got in and after three years of schooling, I came out as a nurse practitioner. I’ve never looked back.
That’s quite a journey!
Yeah, it’s either inspirational or it’s the story of a kid that can’t make up his mind. Take it however you will [laughs].
What drew you toward cardiology in particular?
It’s funny that you say that, because I remember when I was in the fifth grade, we dissected a pig’s heart and I got so sick looking at it that I had to take the day off the school afterwards.
But that first hospital job after grad school was working in the cardiac cath lab. I got to see those pivotal moments between life and death: the heroic efforts that kept people alive, and the times that weren’t successful, and the mutual grief that everybody shared about that. To me, they were some of the most human moments I’d ever been around. I fell in love with cardiology by proxy, just by being there.
I’ve always been interested in cardiology, and my interest has never waned. It’s only intensified over the years. For lack of a better pun, cardiology is where my heart is.
What made you decide to try locum tenens, and what did that process look like?
I always wanted to do cardiology, and I was lucky enough to get to know some really good cardiologists who were waiting for me to graduate so that I could come join them at their practice. I was at a small community hospital for five years, and I was really happy there.
But believe it or not, I finally did get accepted into medical school! Once I started school, and then my daughter was born, I realized that driving an hour both ways each day was not working. I was missing out on a lot of study time and dad time, and I didn’t want to keep doing that.
I hadn’t considered locums work until Megan, my consultant from Hayes Locums, reached out to me about it. I mentioned it to my wife, who’s been a travel nurse for a long time, and she said, you would be stupid not to take that opportunity. [laughs] With medical school bills to pay, and the baby, it just seemed like the prime time to try it.
Megan’s been amazing to work with. When she reached out to me about this opportunity, I was able to see ahead of time what the hours and the expectations were going to be, so I knew right out of the gate that the hours were never going to overlap with my academic responsibility. And whenever I have questions about anything, she’s always very prompt with an answer.
Now that I’ve done locums, I don’t see myself going back into a full time position. I never saw myself as a locums provider, but I’m really glad that I did it. It’s been an amazing opportunity to meet and network with new people in the fields that I’m interested in, and build up a portfolio of references for the future.
What has it been like practicing as a locums nurse practitioner rather than a hospital employee?
The expectation that I had of locums going into an extended assignment was that I was going to be kind of treated a little bit differently. I thought the people on staff were going to think of me as a hired gun.
But I can’t tell you how wonderful everybody has been. It’s been a great learning experience for everybody, because I’m coming in with a different style of how cardiology is practiced than what they use. There are multiple things that I’ve learned since I’ve been here, and there are things that I’ve recommended that they’ve instituted here.
When you work in the same setting, like I did at the community hospital for five years, you get into a routine. The passion is still there, but the drive wanes a little bit when you’re at the same place over time.
Locums has given me an opportunity to refresh my knowledge and my perspective about how cardiology is practiced. To see how people do things differently, and why they do things differently, ultimately makes you better at your practice.
You mentioned your wife is a travel nurse. What has your experience been like practicing locums with a young family?
My wife is a travel nurse exclusively in Ohio. She’s looked elsewhere before, but we have kids at home, so she doesn’t ever really want to leave for too long. But one of her travel assignments was at the hospital where I was working as a nurse practitioner, and that’s how we met.
Being away from her and the kids has been a challenge. I never thought I’d say this, but God bless technology for things like FaceTime, because I do get to see my family and interact with them for at least for a little while every day. The assignment is also not so far away where I have to spend weeks and months away––I commute back every Friday, and then I come back up to Michigan every Sunday, so I get at least 48 hours with them each week.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the biggest reason that I’m successful and balancing all of this is because I’ve got a wife at home who’s just a rock star. She has been emotionally, financially, and physically supportive in every single way, shape and form. She hasn’t batted an eye about making sure that the kids are taken care of and about making sure when I come home for the weekend that I get time to spend with everybody, but also get time to do schoolwork. If I didn’t have that support structure in place, something would have to give.
We’ve had conversations about whether continuing medical school is a good long term strategy, and every time she says, You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Just keep working.
That’s what’s making the locums assignment, the medical school, and new fatherhood all successful, is that I have good people around me to help me out.
What advice would you give to other NPs considering locums?
There were a lot of times along the way, especially when I started working as a nurse, that I kept hearing about how the field was so saturated that there weren’t going to be any jobs for anybody.
I’ve found that to be far from the case. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter where you go to school. It doesn’t really matter what your GPA is. They want to see somebody that is driven, somebody that is putting the time in. If you can find a place and get some experience for 6-12 months, job opportunities will open up for you left and right.
That’s my advice: don’t let other people dictate to you what the course of your career is going to look like, because if you look hard enough, you can find something that is going to allow you to take care of people the way you want to.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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