How to Work as a PA and still Go on Crazy Long Vacations

How to Work as a PA and still Go on Crazy-Long Vacations

Most physician assistants assume they’ll be working full-time, with just a couple weeks of vacation per year. 

That doesn’t leave much time for lengthy trips to foreign countries, or to slowly take your time while traveling. 

And for a lot of people, that’s how it goes. They just take a couple hurried vacations each year, and that’s about it.

But it’s possible to work as a PA and still have tons of time for vacationing.

In fact, I’m on a long vacation as I write this, and I’ll explain the details below.

Let’s dive in.

How my Physician Assistant Career has Evolved

Once I graduated, my first job was working full time in the emergency room. I also took on a part-time family practice job at the same time, because I wanted to see what both of those specialties were like.

After a while, my original employer opened up an urgent care, and had us work there as well. So I actually got experience in all 3 of those settings at the same time.

After a few years, I got a new job in the ER, with a different hospital system. I even worked nights full-time for a while, so I could see what it was like to get fully adjusted to that schedule.

Going Part Time in the ER

A few years ago, I decided to go part-time with my ER job. That’s because I had started a side hustle and had a little bit of side income. So I thought it would make sense to create more flexibility that way.

So at the beginning of 2020 (a couple months before COVID started), I went part-time, and started working about 5-6 shifts per month in the ER.

Then COVID hit, and everything went haywire. So for a while I was not working as much. 

But more recently I’ve started working 5-6 shifts a month, as originally planned.

Creating Side Hustles

As I mentioned above, one of the reasons I’ve been able to work part-time in the ER is because I have a side hustle.

At this point, I actually have multiple side hustles. This includes a blog / podcast / YouTube channel about medical Spanish, as well as a blog / podcast / YouTube channel about nutrition and fasting.

I also sell a medical Spanish CME course for emergency room providers. 

The end result?

This has given me enough flexibility to be able to adjust my schedule and work fewer shifts per month.

Speaking of side hustles, I recently read a book called Side Hustle, by Chris Guillebeau. It’s a pretty good intro to the topic for any beginner, so go ahead and check that out if that’s something you’re thinking about.

Putting It All Together: Going on Long Vacations as a PA

As you can see, the key to my schedule flexibility is having a side income

Though I haven’t mentioned it up to this point, another key step has been decreasing my expenditures, so that I don’t have to earn as much money.  That way, I’m able to get by with less income from my regular PA job.

So if you want to have similar schedule flexibility, I’d take a look at your budget and see if you can spend less, and then consider some ways to possibly start a side hustle, which could ultimately give you enough flexibility to go on trips like I’ve been doing.

Even without a side hustle, you might be able to reduce how much you spend, and work a little bit less. That could give you a decent amount of schedule flexibility (which is a potential advantage of being a PA).

My Current Trip

A couple of my brothers are currently living in Ecuador with their families.

So as you can imagine, I planned a trip to go and visit them.

But after I started planning that trip, I got a little greedy. I started thinking about other places I could go on the same trip. 

One thing led to another, and before I knew it I had planned the longest trip / vacation of my entire life.

It’s 8 weeks long, in 4 different foreign countries. 

Here’s how it breaks down:

I started out in Guatemala, visiting some people that I know.  Then I went to Bogotá, Colombia. After that I went to a city in southern Ecuador called Cuenca, where my brothers and their families are living. Then I worked my way north, one city at a time: Quito, Ecuador; Medellín, Colombia; Cartagena, Colombia; then the Dominican Republic.

physician assistant on long vacation jet ski Cartagena

This trip may sound a little crazy, but there are a couple of reasons. 

First, I’m kind of making up for lost time, since I didn’t travel anywhere internationally during the COVID pandemic. 

Second, this is my first time traveling internationally since I started working part-time, so it made sense to be ambitious.

I don’t know if I’ll continue doing crazy long trips like this, but it’s been an interesting experience to consider for the future.

Planning my Schedule for this Current Trip

As I mentioned earlier, I usually work about 5-6 shifts per month. 

So in order to plan a long trip like this:

I worked my April shifts towards the beginning of the month, and my June shifts towards the end of that month. And then just in the month of May, I asked the scheduler if I could skip that month and not do any shifts. We had enough staffing in our hospital system, so it worked out okay.

Conclusion: How to Go on Long Vacations as a Physician Assistant

Most PA’s work full-time and have very little vacation. 

Some of them work part-time, but that’s usually because they have family responsibilities, or perhaps a second job.

Ultimately, most of them don’t have a lot of time for vacation. Maybe a couple weeks per year.

But if you play your cards just right, it’s certainly possible to have much longer stretches of time to go on vacation as a physician assistant.

For example, you could find a way to work part-time (by spending less, or having a second stream of income), and you could consider starting a side hustle, which could give you that second stream of income (if you figure out something that works).

Hopefully this has given you some useful ideas about how to go on long vacations as a PA. And hopefully at least one person who reads this finds a way to make it work. 🙂