Love and locums: Two stories of new and enduring relationships

Drs Holly and Paul Llobet on beach in Guam

For physicians who work locum tenens, maintaining a healthy and happy relationship may seem difficult. Locum physicians often have to travel, adjust to new settings, and balance their personal and professional lives. But sometimes it works beautifully — here are two stories of love and locums. One locum physician found love on assignment, while another couple credits locum tenens for their strong relationship.

Finding love on assignment

Critical care physician Dr. Ronald Stiller had no expectations of finding love as a locum tenens physician.

He initially decided to try locum tenens after a long career in Pittsburgh. “I’d always had a bit of wanderlust and was winding down at my home institution. I was getting to the point where I wanted things to change.”

Since his daughter was in medical residency in Seattle, he decided to move west and began his locums career in Walla Walla. “And that’s where I met Angela,” he says.

Dr. Stiller explains that as a critical care doctor, he typically plants himself at a particular location in the hospital to do his charting, making it easier for him to offer support if anyone needs it. The area he chose to make his daily notes was where Angela, a telemetry tech, did the same.

Dr Stiller and Angela in Australia

“She’d seen me a fair amount because that was her monitoring station, so she could see I wasn’t as buttoned-up as many others saw me,” Dr. Stiller shares. “So one day, she approached me and asked if I wanted to go out for a glass of wine. I immediately accepted, and that was that.”

Traveling partners in crime

Dr Stiller and his girlfriend, Angela

Although Angela’s job isn’t a traveling one, she joins Dr. Stiller on adventures between his assignments when she has time off.

“Before we’d met, she had not been out of the country,” says Dr. Stiller. “But since we’ve been together, we’ve gone to Italy, we’ve been to Ireland, Scotland, we’re going to Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico. Hopefully, she can join me on one of my annual medical missions. We suffer from the same degree of wanderlust and travel as much as possible.”

Dr. Stiller says for a relationship as a locum physician to work, both parties need to be flexible and adaptable. “If the partner of a locum tenens can work remotely, then traveling together works. It’s also important to be okay with being away from them for a week or a month at a time. Even though it can be hard being away from each other sometimes, because I work locums, we have more time together than if I had a regular position. It works for us.”

20 years of love and many more years of locums

Drs. Holly and Paul Llobet married over two decades ago. They met in medical school in Mexico, where Paul was instantly drawn to Holly. “I said, ‘Hey, we’re both new. Do you want to grab a coffee?’ And her answer was no, every single time.”

“But I’m a very patient man,” Paul says.

Holly says that he was extremely persistent. “Well, he asked me out every day for the entire semester. Despite me saying no the entire time, he would ask me a question about myself every day, and I didn’t realize until later that there was a reason he did this.”

So, by the end of the semester, Paul took another shot. “I said, ‘You’re my best friend here. I know your favorite color, I know your favorite food, I know your favorite song, I know what you like to do. And you know me. Will you at least go to dinner with me?’”

Dr Holly and Paul Llobet in Guam
The Llobets renewing their vows in Guam

Holly says with a grin that she still hadn’t agreed to go out with him. That all changed when Holly noticed someone getting top marks on every test, and since the students were only identified by numbers, no one knew what others’ scores were. “I’m trying to figure out who the smart people are, and I notice these scores. So, as the semester continues, I’ve narrowed it down to four people. And I thought, no way is it Paul.” But it was.

Holly asked Paul what his anonymous number was, and he made her promise to give him her phone number if he confirmed her suspicion. Once Paul had her number, he called her daily to say hi while she was out of the country, continuing the tradition of asking questions about herself. And when Holly returned, their relationship was finally solidified. Their new tradition? Renewing their vows on their anniversary wherever their locums assignment takes them, in the same wedding attire they originally got married in over 20 years ago.

Locums as a couple

Saying “I do!” again in Paris

After a modest wedding in a bed and breakfast in New York, Holly and Paul settled into their respective private practices. However, Paul’s practice got taken over by a bigger hospital, so he felt it was only a matter of time before he’d be forced out. He decided to sell his practice first. He then realized he wanted a better work/life balance and began to work locum tenens. “I had a feeling Holly would be on board,” he says.

“I loved my job,” Holly says. “I had been there nine years; I was so happy and in my groove. Then Paul comes home one day and drops a bomb: He says, ‘We’re going to Guam!’”

Paul says Holly had always wanted to live near the ocean, and when he found Global Medical Staffing and his recruiter, Cory Owens, the stars aligned. Cory found both Paul and Holly locums assignments in Guam. Now, after many international and domestic assignments, they have no intention to return to full-time work.

“We were happy, but we realized how disconnected we’d become,” says Holly. “With our flexibility now, we have the time to learn how to surf one week, scuba dive the next, and taste food we’ve never tasted. It’s almost like we’re always on mini-dates. Every experience is new, and doing that with someone is fun.”

Paul agrees. “I think people in every relationship get stuck in a routine. Sometimes, you forget the important little things because you’re in that routine, but constantly exploring something new together is always refreshing. It’s not routine, and I think that is what has made our relationship 1000% better. We both have always been pretty adventurous, and the adventure has continued contract after contract, year after year.”

Love and locum tenens: Not just a pipe dream

Working as a locum physician can be rewarding, but some may see temporary work as antithetical to finding and sustaining love. Yet for many, the opposite is the case. You may find yourself on an assignment where you meet the love of your life, or locums may be why your love is so fresh and lasting.

“Ten years had gone by, and we were kind of just working and not living, and that’s when we switched to locums,” says Holly. “That’s when we got perspective on how much we were on autopilot. Happy — but disconnected. When we look back, we realize that we’re more connected than before.”

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