Imagine being an intern at a hospital with five or six admissions in a night. Then March 2020 hits. Suddenly, there’s a deluge of patients without enough medical staff to cover them. There aren’t any beds left. Day after day, you navigate difficult conversations with families. You deliver devastating news. And you struggle to comfort them behind barriers of PPE. No textbook could prepare you for this reality.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic was the catalyst to consider retirement or a break from full-time work. For Dr. Nasheed Schimmels, this was the introduction to her medical career. And it shaped her into the doctor she is today.
After witnessing crippling physician shortages and burnout, Dr. Schimmels wanted to become a locum tenens physician and provide essential, temporary coverage to different hospitals in need. Now, she achieves that goal with the help of Interim Physicians.
Changing Careers, Confronting COVID-19
Back in 2015, Dr. Schimmels was a pharmacist. But in her heart, she wanted to do much more than hand out scripts and answer the occasional question about medications.
“I wanted a decision-making role in patient care. Since I’m extroverted, I really wanted to be around people, work closely with patients, and collaborate with nursing. So, I pursued medicine.”
After attending medical school and interning, Dr. Schimmels entered residency during the peak of the pandemic.
“My residency program had about 6 months of ICU, and I remember we just kept getting pulled back because there were so few staff members, and the entire hospital was filled to the brim. I learned how to manage intubated patients, treat using prone position, and explain long-term —sometimes end-of-life — care to family members in a humane way. I use all these skills in my daily practice now as an internal medicine physician since I’m often dealing with an elderly population.”
Dr. Schimmels recalls one of her attendings describing internal medicine as the quarterback of the hospital.
“You rely on your specialists to do their job, but ultimately, you’re the person who puts all the pieces together to make the final decision. I really enjoy that collaboration – it gives me the chance to work in all different kinds of places. That’s one of the reasons I think I gravitated to locums.”
Lucking out with Locums
During med school and residency, Dr. Schimmels heard about practicing “locum tenens,” taking temporary assignments at different hospitals to help fill in for other doctors. She even saw a few in action during the height of COVID-19. After learning about the flexibility and financial benefits, Dr. Schimmels was surprised to watch most of her classmates proceed straight into their fellowship without considering locums.
“When I thought about the flexibility and exposure of working in a bunch of different settings with different people, I got really excited about locums. I started to imagine working a set number of shifts, visiting new places, and then taking the rest of the month off. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to know where I could sign up!”
After completing residency in 2022, Dr. Schimmels posted on a resume board seeking locum work. Lauren Roberts, a recruiter at Interim Physicians, saw her post and gave her a call with a great assignment in Missouri.
“My initial goal was to practice locums full-time. But now my husband and I are trying to have children, so we knew we needed to have a stable base and health insurance taken care of before we do too much exploring,” she laughs.
Dr. Schimmels decided to find a permanent job locally in Michigan while still pursuing nearby locum tenens assignments through Interim Physicians. And Lauren was there for her every step of the way.
“My recruiter Lauren is accommodating, advocates for my needs, and ensured my Missouri license got through in time. But what I really love is that I can ask her about things even outside of my locums job,” says Dr. Schimmels. “When I started interviewing for permanent jobs, I’d call Lauren and get her opinion on the offers. She was in my corner and had a level of experience that I really trusted. She’s been so helpful not just about navigating locums, but even guiding my general medical career.”
At her main job in Michigan, Dr. Schimmels doesn’t see a lot of acuity, but during her first locums shift in Missouri, she remembers receiving 12 admissions overnight. It was a brief flashback to her COVID-19 residency days.
“It was a little overwhelming in the moment, but once my shift was over, I realized how enjoyable it was. I was so well prepared from my training. I got a chance to handle a high volume of different acuity levels and pathologies with the skillset and time management to keep everyone stable. That’s a great feeling.”
Since Dr. Schimmels and her husband enjoy traveling so much, he decided to tag along on that assignment. While in Missouri, they visited Mark Twain’s birthplace, explored caves by the Missouri River, and toured plenty of new sights.
Building a Future & Meeting Goals
Eventually, Dr. Schimmels hopes to find the same practice variation in her assignment locations. She currently holds licenses in Michigan, Arizona, Idaho, and Missouri (and her husband is pushing for the acquisition of Oregon and Washington). The goal is to combine assignments with mini-vacations – the Pacific Northwest is at the top of the list.
“I love locums because I get to meet new people all the time and you can keep your skills sharp. For my perm job, I see critical access patients in the hospital. With locums, I can practice strictly nocturnist if I want. The range of pathology is so interesting; in one day, I can treat heart failure, a colovesical fistula, complicated diverticulitis, and renal failure. I love getting different types of exposure as a young doctor.”
Dr. Schimmels enjoys the variety as an internal medicine physician but fondly remembers working with patients in a primary care setting during her residency. That continuity of care and long-term relationship building was something she valued. So, Dr. Schimmels hopes to move toward a traditional inpatient/outpatient setting as her family grows. Checking off a bunch of sights together along the way, of course.
“My husband and I can work toward all of that,” she smiles. “And I know Interim will help us.”
Dr. Schimmels praises all the benefits of locum life, and she emphasizes that as an independent contractor, the team you’re working with is crucial.
“They’re the ones who can make or break a smooth process,” she notes. “If Interim hadn’t been so prepared and organized, then I wouldn’t have gotten my license as quickly as I did. They’re always looking out for me.”