Dr. Rojek has always loved to travel. She speaks often about her two biggest passions: practicing medicine and sailing. When she attended medical school in Poland, she never anticipated she’d one day be able to combine both her passions into a single career.
Today, as she practices locum tenens with the support of Interim Physicians, she uses her free time to explore the world by land while dreaming of one day fulfilling her ambitious goal of circumnavigating the globe.
A Country Here, a Rotation There
Despite her commitment to becoming a physician, Dr. Rojek’s wanderlust couldn’t be tamed. After entering medical school in Poland, she took some time to focus on sailing. That’s how she met her husband – and that, she says, is when the real adventure begins.
The couple married in England and sailed around Europe, South Africa, Brazil, and Australia before settling in South Africa. There, the pair started a family and began raising two children—while Dr. Rojek attended medical school!
In 1992, she graduated from the University of Cape Town Health Sciences. But since each country’s medical track is a bit different, Dr. Rojek didn’t have to complete residency right away, she explains.
For their next adventure, the family chose to settle in Canada. Although she didn’t know it at the time, that decision shaped the rest of Dr. Rojek’s medical career.
“In Canada, you often practice as a family doctor while simultaneously completing ER shifts,” she says. “At first, I was in a small town in the Rocky Mountains and loved the exposure to the ER; that’s when I knew I wanted to pursue a career in emergency medicine.”
As she gained more experience, Dr. Rojek also received an unofficial introduction to practicing locum tenens through a physician relief program in British Columbia. It wasn’t considered true locum work, but the program was designed to provide one-time coverage for physicians in remote, rural areas.
After she spent time in different hospitals for varying durations, Dr. Rojek found she enjoyed the diversity of patients and practice environments in which she worked.
Unfortunately, despite the high demand for physicians, Dr. Rojek’s husband struggled to find consistent work in Canada, so, they chose to relocate one final time to the United States.
Smoother Sailing with Locums
Once in the States, Dr. Rojek completed her residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago before relocating to Kentucky. For several years, she enjoyed practicing emergency medicine. However, she says the rigidity of full-time work caught up with her.
“When you practice full-time, you don’t have as much say about your time off. It really makes you question things, especially when you can’t be with your kids as they grow up. For me, the nail in the coffin was one year when I was scheduled every single holiday, and the scheduler refused to change it.”
Thankfully, other physicians at the hospital witnessed how Dr. Rojek was treated. They worked alongside her, temporarily filling in for different physicians and practicing on a locum tenens basis. Once they discussed the flexibility and freedom of the practice alternative, Dr. Rojek decided to give it a shot.
In 2013, she picked up her very first locum tenens shift through an agency one of her colleagues recommended. She was instantly hooked and accepted every assignment she could get. But then, a few short months later, her recruiter changed careers, leaving her without a reliable locum tenens connection.
“Working with an agency is helpful because they have access to the best jobs and really try to get you as many shifts as you want. Unfortunately, some agencies aren’t your advocate, and they don’t really help you find what works best for you,” Dr. Rojek says.
After trying out a few different options, Dr. Rojek finally connected with Interim Physicians in 2014. “Interim’s follow-through is the best I’ve ever seen from a locum tenens agency,” she explains. Dr. Rojek attributes this to her recruiter, Jackie Byrd.
“Jackie is reliable and honest. Whenever I text her, she answers me immediately, even in the middle of the night or on weekends. When we started working with each other, I asked her when I could contact her. She said something that completely blew me away and stuck with me all these years. ‘Since you’re working 24/7, I’m the same. For you, I’m always available 24/7.’ And she really means it. She’s the best person I know in the business.”
Dr. Rojek holds six state licenses, but she mainly accepts locum assignments in North Carolina, Illinois, and Indiana. In her spare time, she’s often traveling to different countries, so Jackie offered to use WhatsApp to communicate whenever she’s off on another adventure. That way, she doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to securing her next assignment.
When One Passion Leads to Another
While Dr. Rojek settled into locum life with Interim, her husband began a small sailing business and invested in a catamaran for them to start navigating a few of their personal aspirations.
Now that their children have grown up and moved on, Dr. Rojek and her husband dream of circumnavigating the world together. In fact, they began the voyage alongside a boat rally a few different times, but due to several different setbacks, including covid, they couldn’t complete the trip. Thankfully, the flexibility of locum work seamlessly facilitates this goal and their past attempts; the couple plans to reconnect with the rally in Fiji and finish their journey this year.
In the meantime, Dr. Rojek’s sense of adventure hasn’t slowed down. Last year, she went hiking in the Himalayas and scuba diving in the Philippines between locum gigs. She often reflects on the less-adventurous gifts that locum tenens gives her family.
“Both of my children live on the West Coast, which is far away from me. My son is an anesthesiologist, and when he needed some help caring for my grandchildren, I was able to take time off to be with them. I’m able to plan assignments around my family, which I could never do with a full-time job.”
Her schedule autonomy has allowed her to see some critical milestones during these stages of her children’s lives, and she’s enjoyed watching her legacy grow.
“When my daughter was just 6 years old, she accompanied me to work at a little practice in Canada. There, she saw me treat a child with a skull laceration. I still remember the drive back home. I heard her call out from the backseat, ‘Guess what, mom? I’m going to be a pediatrician when I grow up.’ And not only is she a pediatrician, she’s one of the country’s Top 10 pediatricians with fellowships in hematology/oncology and critical care. I’m so proud of her.”
Even once Dr. Rojek and her husband cross circumnavigation off their bucket list, she plans to give Jackie a call — or ping her on WhatsApp — for the next assignment. And no matter what milestone her family reaches or country she visits next, locum tenens will always be able to help her get there!