Dr. Cheri McCue has always loved traveling. Still, she didn’t expect to one day get on a plane and end up living in Guam for several months.
“I thought: How did I get here? Did I just travel 22 hours,” she recalls, laughing.
Her locum tenens assignment, planned for three months but extended by mutual agreement, ended up being the experience of a lifetime. It was something that had always been on her bucket list, and it fit right in with her desire to live life with “piss and vinegar.”
Time for a change
Dr. McCue decided to take on a locums assignment because she felt burned out, and negotiated a leave of absence from her medical practice.
“I was running 90 miles per hour and felt like a squirrel in traffic. I wanted to recharge my batteries after being so busy,” she explains.
Guam gave her the break she needed to recover. “Suddenly, in Guam,” she says, “I had all of this extra time because I was away from all my responsibilities at home. What I learned working in locums, was when you closed the computer for the day, you were done and went home and were free.”
This meant she could run on the beach and go swimming before work every day. It also meant that she was able to thoroughly explore the island. Guam’s beaches are known for their exquisite beauty, and each one is different — some lined with lava rocks, some with coconut or palm trees, some in coves. All are remarkable.
“Guam is gorgeous,” Dr. McCue says. “I saw lagoons, stunning views; it was absolutely stunning.”
An adventure indeed!
“Being 8,700 miles from home on an island with a 35-mile circumference alone and away from my partner, family, and friends, and having two hurricanes pass by — that was adventurous!” she says. “It wasn’t scary, but was an experience.”
Even grocery shopping meant adventure. “The food was brought in from all over the world, mostly from all over Asia. So sometimes you didn’t know what the label said, because it was in a foreign language, so you guessed and took a chance,” she says.
Practicing medicine provided new challenges and adventures, too. Dr. McCue worked in the urgent care in Guam. “I quickly found where my strengths were because of my extensive background in medicine and family practice. I did some pediatrics, which I hadn’t done for years. You find as a locums that your memories come back and your skillset improves very quickly,” she explains.
For someone like Dr. McCue that finds practicing medicine and learning new things thrilling, it was a lot of fun.
She also got to see how other doctors approached the same types of cases. “Everyone doing the job comes from a different background, a different specialty — but, the end result was always the same. Every day was a learning curve and getting to watch someone else and see their approach,” she adds.
Vacation to Tokyo
At the end of her assignment, while she was already so close to Japan, Dr. McCue flew to Tokyo for a solo vacation. She loved it, though it required being comfortable in a foreign country without being able to speak or read the language.
“It’s so clean, and people were so polite. I would go through the subway turnstile incorrectly, and someone would escort me back,” Dr. McCue says. “I would ask in basic Japanese for directions, and people would point me in the right direction and show me on the map. The late Anthony Bourdain said that Tokyo has now replaced Hawaii for where to get your biggest bang per square foot as far as entertainment, and that’s true.”
She stayed at the downtown Marriott, walked miles every day, and took the subway. She saw a huge Buddha statue you could go inside, visited the Mikimoto Pearl Factory, rode a rickshaw, tasted all kinds of delicious inexpensive seafood and other foods from street vendors, ate in restaurants, and explored the iconic city. It’s an adventure she will always remember.
Give it a try
Dr. McCue encourages other physicians to take an international locums assignment. “Take a risk. Live each day with zest.”
Kari Redfield is a professional content marketing writer. She also is a novelist and writes for newsstand magazines and has had work appear in publications such as Arizona Highways, Sedona Magazine, and American Fitness. And like the locums physicians profiled in these stories, she loves the flexibility and new experiences that her unique job provides, and loves to travel. She has been known to spend weeks in the U.S. West in her Aliner, checking out classic trad rock climbs, epic mountain bike rides, and other adventures while writing from the road.