Elizabeth Tieman, MD
Board Certified Radiologist
Combining a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon into one competition, Ironman triathlons are designed to significantly test the stamina of top-notch athletes. However, these endurance events pale in comparison to the challenge that Elizabeth "Betsy" Tieman, M.D., faced in the seventh year of her medical career. It was 2004, and her typical workweek as a radiologist in a private practice group was 70 hours long. On call every third weekend, she grabbed a few hours of shuteye between reading 35 cases a night. Dr. Tieman was exhausted, burnt-out and wondering if she even wanted to be a doctor anymore.
Her decision to leave private practice and become a locum tenens physician has culminated in what she describes as a near-perfect work/life balance. Today, a well-rested and happy Dr. Tieman practices almost exclusively through VISTA Staffing Solutions while regularly competing in triathlons. In fact, she was one of the first athletes to qualify for the inaugural Ford Ironman World Championship 70.3. In November 2006, she raced with more than 1,800 athletes in Florida. She reports that she "put together a solid race" and was able to cover the 70.3 miles 12 minutes faster than her previous best.
"Working as a locum tenens not only provides the time I need to train and compete in races, it also lets me play more, travel to new places, and most especially, get enough sleep!" She adds, "I feel like a new person."
Dr. Tieman began her medical career when she graduated from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in 1992 and completed a four-year residency at the Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans. Back home in Texas, Dr. Tieman spent the next two years practicing as a general radiologist at a regional hospital in Hillsboro. When she became a physician partner in 1999 with a private practice group in Austin, Dr. Tieman began reading cases from four hospitals and multiple outpatient imaging centers.
Four years after joining the private practice group, she found that the hectic pace of her practice was negatively affecting her personal and professional life. "I was burned out to the extreme," she recalls. "I was tired and wondering if the years I had put into medical school and residency were just a waste of time." A discouraged Dr. Tieman decided to take a year-long sabbatical in the spring of 2004.
Dr. Tieman began to explore her alternatives. Working permanently on a part-time basis was not an option that her group could offer. Dr. Tieman decided to give locum tenens a try and researched a couple of temporary physician staffing firms. Dr. Tieman selected VISTA Staffing Solutions and accepted her first assignment in April 2005.
Besides an occasional stint she sets up herself, Dr. Tieman practices exclusively through VISTA. From a practical perspective, she believes that it makes more sense to work with one firm because it eliminates some of the paperwork associated with obtaining medical licenses and having her credentials verified by different hospitals, clinics and private practice groups.
From a more personal viewpoint, Dr. Tieman says that the credit for her ongoing loyalty should go to Sean, her scheduler. "We have a great working relationship," she explains. "He understands my training and competition schedules — and makes sure to take care of everything. Sean is very good at achieving a balance between my needs and the client's.
"I enjoy going to cool places and meeting great people," says Dr. Tieman. One of the first things she does when she arrives in a new city is ask the locals where they like to eat; Italian food is her favorite. Dr. Tieman has made good friends in multiple cities where she has accepted assignments. Thanks to the hospitality of a co-worker, and now a new friend, she watched Lance Armstrong compete in his last Tour de France on a cable station that she was unable to get in her hotel room.
"I am happier now and love my work again," she reports. Dr. Tieman believes that she is a better doctor because she is no longer burned out and is able to give her best all of the time. "I am an incredibly fortunate person who has had the luxury of making my job fit my lifestyle."
Leah Schafer, MD
Board Certified Radiologist
A desire for diverse patient–care experiences and an eagerness to immerse herself in every aspect of medicine led Leah E. Schafer, M.D., to become a radiologist. These attributes, combined with a taste for adventure, drew Dr. Schafer to a career as a locum tenens physician. After practicing in domestic assignments for five months, she took adventure a step further and accepted one of VISTA Staffing Solutions' first temporary physician placements in New Zealand.
Dr. Schafer received her bachelor of science degree from the University of Georgia in Athens in May 1995, and a medical doctorate from the Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, in May 1999. She completed a five–year residency in diagnostic radiology at Brown Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital in June 2004. Soon after receiving certification from the American Board of Radiology, Dr. Schafer jumped into locum tenens, practicing at Rhode Island Medical Imaging, Providence; W.W. Hastings Indian Health Services Hospital, Oklahoma; and South Fulton Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dr. Schafer considered a culture shift after reading a letter from VISTA Staffing Solutions about locum tenens opportunities in New Zealand and Australia. The prospect of sunny climates and gorgeous coastlines called to her. "After staying in one region while I finished an intense residency at Brown and passed my radiology boards, I was ready to see different parts of the United States," explains Dr. Schafer. "Then I decided that practicing in another country perfectly fit my desire for a change of scenery."
Dr. Schafer contacted VISTA in December 2004 and applied for her first international locum tenens assignment. VISTA matched her clinical skills with an open position for a locum tenens radiologist at Hawke's Bay Hospital in Hastings, New Zealand. Hawke's Bay has 400 beds and offers a wide–range of health care services to approximately 150,000 area residents.
VISTA streamlines both domestic and international placements for physicians and coverage for medical facilities by coordinating logistical details, such as securing work visas and assisting with registration (licensure). VISTA submitted Dr. Schafer's application for medical registration to the Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ) in January of 2005. She was pleased with the fact that VISTA's international team members managed the process and were "very helpful and personable." Dr. Schafer received provisional approval within three weeks, after which she packed her bags and headed for New Zealand in February to begin her international locum tenens adventure.
Hawke's Bay Hospital has a well–equipped radiology department that employs four full–time radiologists and another locum tenens radiologist. Dr. Schafer enjoys the fact that her schedule changes every day, giving her the opportunity to do everything from CAT scans to fluoroscopies to ultrasounds. "Learning how to use new ultrasound equipment in a hectic environment would have been a disadvantage," she comments. "However, that is not the case at Hawke's Bay and I value the additional experience."
Dr. Schafer says that patients are friendly and different from their counterparts in the United States. "People here try to be helpful and are very appreciative," she reports. "They don't seem to expect as much and it's okay if you don't have an immediate answer to a question." A large number of her patients are from the Maori tribe, a population indigenous to New Zealand. "I find it intriguing that the Maori's have medical problems similar to the Native Americans I came to know while working as a locum tenens at an Indian Health Services hospital in Oklahoma."
In addition to an amiable patient population, Dr. Schafer says the workload in the radiology department is quite manageable. "There is a real congeniality and feeling of fraternity among the medical staff and the stress level overall is remarkably low," she marvels. "Imagine working in a place where logic rules rather than litigation."
Dr. Schafer's biggest professional challenge to date has been learning the country's medical terms. "At Hawke's Bay, medical residents are called registrars. Tylenol is referred to as paracetemol," she explains. "It seems like I learn a new word every hour! My favorite term so far is liquor (pronounced like'or), the local word for amniotic fluid." She says the best part about working as a locum tenens in New Zealand is realizing as she heads to the hospital every morning that, "I am going to enjoy my day."
Craig McDonald, the Medical Recruitment Advisor for the Doctors Recruitment and Support Unit at Hawke's Bay Hospital, says that they are equally pleased with Dr. Schafer. He recently wrote, "Dr. Schafer is extremely pleasant to deal with, very competent and hard working. She has quickly established herself as part of our team and is providing valuable international experience and knowledge within our service. Leah is a great ambassador for VISTA, and for internationally–trained locum tenens physicians overall." Dr. Schafer is scheduled to work at Hawke's Bay until June, but has already been invited to return after she finishes a fellowship in body imaging.
Personally, Dr. Schafer is discovering that the locum tenens lifestyle suits her personality very well. It quenches her thirst for adventure and provides practice experience in unique settings. She is living in an apartment in nearby Napier, a port city in Hawke's Bay that she says is a "happening" place. She loves the windows that overlook the ocean and a boardwalk where she rides her bike for miles and miles after work. A feature that particularly amuses Dr. Schafer–because she has never seen one before—is the commode, which has two flushing "modes," one half–flush and one that is extra long...
Although the stores are not open very late, she loves grocery shopping and has found that New Zealand's markets offer an incredible wine selection and almost always have hokey pokey ice cream in the frozen section. She is not alone in enjoying this national favorite. The New Zealand Herald reported in 2001, "New Zealanders pack away about two million litres of hokey pokey a year."
Life in Dr. Schafer's new apartment is not all about ocean views, gourmet meals and sweet treats. She now does laundry without a clothes–dryer and keeps warm without central heating–two U.S. luxuries not common in New Zealand. However, Dr. Schafer is proud to say that she conquered her greatest challenge since arriving in New Zealand, learning to drive on the opposite side of the street. She has "become one with the left side" of the road, proclaiming herself a graduate of "Leah's School of Wrong Way Driving!"
As much as she likes her temporary apartment, Dr. Schafer finds that she is not often home. On her days off she joins co–workers at a nearby beach house, takes art class, kayaks or hikes. She enjoys music, theater, visiting wineries and local art festivals with "fantastic picnics spread out on lacey linens all over the lawns, and people are dressed to the nines."
Dr. Schafer says she enjoys living in New Zealand and practicing in a medical system where patients and staff are congenial and the work pace supports high–quality care. She is looking forward to living and working in other parts of the world as a locum tenens physician working through VISTA's international placement division.
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