“I’m just a work machine. I sometimes show up at home, like I’m a visitor.” That’s how Dr. Tina Passalaris described her life as a full-time oncologist at a large hospital on the East Coast.
“Initially, [work] was an incredible experience in which I immersed myself, enjoying that initial steep learning curve,” Dr. Passalaris says. “When you’re on the treadmill, you don’t realize all of your joints are aching until you get off.”
Unfortunately, the job also took a toll on her relationships with her husband and two daughters.
“I was absent from my kids’ lives. I didn’t go to school plays, and it was uncanny how often I would be on call during the most important nights,” Dr. Passalaris recalls. “I was late to absolutely everything, an unreliable member of the family. There’s only so much of that your family can take.”
Dr. Passalaris knew it was time for a change, and she and her family moved back to their farm in the country of Cyprus, spending long summers on the coast of Greece. To keep practicing medicine, she returned to working locum tenens assignments with CompHealth, something she had done on and off in previous years.
“I wrote my recruiter, Jen, to give her a six-month warning when I’d be back in her stratosphere, and she said, ‘No problem,’” Dr. Passalaris recalls. “Eventually, I went right back to doing locums again. I’m now very, very happy.”
The choice to give up her full-time position and once again take locum tenens positions allowed her more flexibility and time with her family.
“Although I’m absent 100 percent when I’m on an assignment, when I am home, I’m 100 percent home,” Dr. Passalaris says. “I participate in every aspect of my children’s lives, even if it’s as mundane as driving them to school. I would never get that when I worked full time. Although I’m not around 100 percent of the time, I’m around 68 to 70 percent of the time, and that’s pretty good.”
But the benefit of spending more time with her family is just one thing Dr. Passalaris likes about locum tenens work.
“It’s a complete, harmonious relationship. I just adapt to whatever the practice wants me to do and assume the role that they expect of me,” she expresses. “I appreciate that the client is doing all the paperwork to accept me, so I really try to make myself available to them in the future. I will bend over backwards to go back to the same place. There’s a human relationship there.”
Dr. Passalaris says other doctors are intrigued by the opportunities she enjoys with her family.
“Colleagues say, ‘I didn’t know you could move around like that!’ And I can see that their minds trail with the thought, “Wow, maybe I should do that!” she says. “I’ve been where they are, and I know how hard it is. I want to do locum tenens for the rest of my life.”