Working as traveling nurse practitioners, we often consider working with government sites because we can use any state license. Some examples include the VA, naval and air force bases, and Indian Health Services (IHS). Unfortunately, government locum tenens assignments have a few drawbacks. The comments below are more specific to VA and military bases (not IHS).
- The pay is usually lower than working in the private sector (including some but not all IHS).
- The time for credentialing is often longer than other jobs – can range from one month to one year!
- Travel benefits are a possibility but not as all-inclusive, as seen with most traveling positions.
- They usually require a 6-month to 1 year commitment.
I had accepted a locum tenens nurse practitioner position working with an air force base in Texas this past summer. I knew someone who had worked there previously, so I was really interested in taking a break from primary care. The job entailed performing physical assessments of air force members transitioning into civilians.
After multiple complex stunts working in California, as I detailed in my blog previously, I was looking forward to something so simple. I lucked out because usually the site requires a 6-month commitment, but since their contract with the agency was going to terminate before the end of the year, they were allowing me to commit for only 3 months.
I even decided that the pay cut was worth it. I was going to be making $10/hour less than I usually make. I even decided that not getting travel reimbursement wasn’t a big deal, nor the fact that I was only getting an $800/month stipend to pay for my apartment. Luckily, Texas has really cheap housing in comparison to other states like California. Yet, it is challenging finding short-term lease apartments for cheap, so I was likely going to spend an extra $300/month out-of-pocket. Call me crazy?!
The agency I was working through, told me credentialing would take only 2-4 weeks. I knew from a few friends that it could actually take much longer than that. After accepting the assignment, I didn’t need to start for another 2 months, so I thought that would be plenty of time. After each month, the agency would tell me that my security clearance didn’t come through yet, and it may be another 2-4 weeks. After 3 months, I decided I did not want to wait anymore. I had friends that were told the same thing before, but their security clearance wasn’t granted until 6 months later!
I was easily able to end my contract since the agency couldn’t follow through with their (2-4 weeks of credentialing) promises. I am not sure if I will try to work with them in the future, as their time frame for credentialing can be unpredictable. My belief that everything at the government level takes so long for no reason was confirmed. In addition, I typically do not like committing to an assignment for more than 3 months. In the future, I wouldn’t mind doing IHS, as their credentialing usually takes 1 month or less.
If you’re interested in working in the government sector, be aware that you likely won’t be able to start right away, unless it is with an IHS.