Hit the road or suck it up?
November 22, 2008 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Is now a bad time to leave a stable, solid job for traveling contract work? Am I setting myself up for financial disaster in a few months? Will this economy affect health care jobs to a degree that this is a bad idea?

I am a physical therapist working in New York City. I love being a physical therapist, but I feel like living in New York is eating me alive, and have felt that way for some time now.

I have a stable job with lovely coworkers in a place where I feel like I am learning a lot, but at the end of the day, I feel like NYC is chewing me up. The baseline level of stress here is really, really getting to me. I am frequently overwhelmed to the point of tears with the stress of NYC life. I want to see stars at night. I want to be near trees without having to take a subway to get to them. I want to be able to hear myself think.

I'd like to take contract work in other states, see if there's somewhere else I'd like to live, somewhere with a slower pace. Contract jobs, which pay well, are in plentiful supply right now, my recruiter says there are "hundreds" of openings (usually 13-week contracts) that he's trying to fill.

I'd like to pack up my stuff and drive south for the winter, take a 13-week job, and do the travel thing for a while. But I fear that if things in the economy continue as they are, that the work will dry up and I'll be stranded, far from home, regretting this decision.

Any insight? Will physical therapist jobs dry up? Will hospitals/nursing homes cancel their contract workers? Is this a good choice, or should I suck it up and soldier on for a while? I'm thinking of packing up and leaving in January.

(Anonymous because coworkers read mefi, and I don't want them to know I'm thinking of hitting the road.)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total)
I don't know the specifics of the healthcare business - but unless the answer is "It's a terrible, terrible decision and you'll be so out of work you'll be begging for a job at McDonalds" then I think you already know the answer. Pack up, move on. Have an adventure. Be happy.
posted by TravellingDen at 2:36 PM on November 22, 2008

Do you have any savings to tide you over between contracts? Save a little and then GO! I felt the same way you did by the end of my decade in NYC and moving was a great decision for me. It's a tough place to live when you don't love it. Can you plan your next couple of moves now ... line up a job in the south for January, and then another one for the spring, and then see if the traveling life suits you?

I don't know what the market is for physical therapists ... why not check out the websites of hospitals, clinics or nursing homes in places you might like to live and see if they have openings, just to get a feel for how in demand you might be? If you don't have anything keeping you in a place that makes you sad, then move along and find a better place.

It sounds like you have a portable profession so hit the road and have a great time.
posted by Kangaroo at 2:53 PM on November 22, 2008

Regardless of the economy, people are still going to get sick. In all likelihood, Medicare and health insurance should still be around to pay for their treatment.

I'm not in the healthcare field, although I do a lot of reading on it. I almost wonder if the opposite of your fears might come true: Maybe regular employees would be laid off or made part-time, and more contract workers would be hired. You never know, but in an uncertain economy, employers might be less willing to commit to a permanent hire.
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:05 PM on November 22, 2008

A close friend suggests the locum tenens side is booming though a little slower now than it used to be. Some fields are slower than others (e.g. physical therapy might not be as popular as, say, urology). I don't think you're making a mistake though you may find rates will be lower than usual (although generally i'm told the locums side makes way more than a comparable permanent position).
posted by arimathea at 3:12 PM on November 22, 2008

Is now a bad time to leave a stable, solid job...

posted by rokusan at 3:17 PM on November 22, 2008

yeah, it's a bad time to leave a stable, solid job, but it's going to turn into a horrible year in nyc. people are mega cranky. crime is already increasing. if you feel that the city's eating you alive and you need to get out, it's not like you don't have an actual vocation that you have actual working experience in. you're not an english major who just graduated or something.

i understand the eating you alive thing. i really do.

i would say that you should save what you can and then go.
posted by micawber at 5:39 PM on November 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would strongly recommend finding something permanent before leaving a stable job in this economy.
posted by cnc at 11:49 PM on November 22, 2008

I agree that it is a bad time to leave a stable job for a contract - but only if your lifestyle and immediate needs require that you have a stable job in a fixed location. How risk averse are you? Do you have any dependents, or debt? Are you mobile in terms of possessions? Can you travel light? Do you have back-up savings?

Aside from the job-market-in-your-field bit (which I know nothing about) I'd be asking the above. If you're free of responsibility then hell yeah, go for it. You've got a great, transferable skill. Make yourself a time plan for escape, save up and then hit the road.

Alternatively you could take a holiday somewhere cheap but lovely as a bit of a retreat to give yourself some head space to think about next steps.
posted by freya_lamb at 4:21 AM on November 23, 2008

What happens if you do lose your job (either the permanent one you now have or a future contract one)? Do you have family/friends that will give you a soft landing? The only concern I would have with contract work is the lack of benefits but if you can cover that then yeah, get outta NYC and go on an adventure. Worst comes to worst, the recession will end (from someone that got knocked on her ass HARD by the early nineties recession and regrets the "safe" decisions that did not pay off).
posted by saucysault at 6:19 AM on November 23, 2008

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