Our Epic Journey: Managing Family Life at the Project Site

Author: Ron Stephenson, Consultant

This is the third blog in a series highlighting one HIT consultant’s experience taking his family on the road. Ron Stephenson Family Photo

So, let’s recap. You’ve decided you want to take your family with you on your next health IT consulting contract. You’ve addressed it with your client and they’re on board. You’ve talked with family, friends and neighbors in your local support system, and getting help with the mail and other details at home are covered.

If you’ve got school age children, you’ll need a plan for educating on the go. Having school age children can be a big obstacle to committing to taking your HIT show on the road. We have a six-year-old and found our solution in a hybrid program which combines an online program with self-study. We’ve tried a complete “do-it-yourself” program but found that, for our little dude, having stronger guidance from a professional educator combined with the flexibility of self-study was the perfect fit. Every student’s and parent’s temperament is different, and this part takes research and possibly some trial and error. The resources available now compared to even a few years ago are plentiful and with some effort you’re sure to find the right fit for your family.

Typically, I travel the first month of HIT consulting projects on my own. The first weeks of a project tends to be higher intensity as I’m getting acclimated and learning my role. I use the evenings for reconnaissance, checking for the best accommodations and rates and getting a feel for the local amenities. If our national gym isn’t in the town where we’re working, we usually join a gym locally. Having a Kid’s Club option is a high priority. Some days it’s the only chance our little guy gets to run around a bit, and it affords my wife and I some time to have grown up talk without little ears nearby. Be sure to check out the laundry facilities of the places you’re considering staying. Doing laundry is a constant on the road and good facilities can make a huge difference. Once I’ve found the right accommodations and I’m settled into the project, we notify our support group back home, book the flight and make the trip to our new, temporary home.

When planning to make your semi-temporary move, weather will play a major role in dictating what you’ll bring. A fall/winter gig in New York City will require a different wardrobe than a spring/summer project in Miami. We try to pack for the season we’re in and plan for a trip home to exchange clothes when the weather changes. Winter projects always mean more suitcases!

Once we’re on-site, we make minor modifications to the hotel room to better accommodate our long term stay. We set up a dedicated school area for our first grader. We replace the thick hotel hangers with thin wire hangers to make room in the small closets. When possible, we’ll ask the hotel to remove extraneous or decorative items that consume valuable space. We’ll also ask for an extra night stand or dresser if there is room and the hotel can accommodate us. Every situation is a little bit different.

Some of the items we don’t leave home without: hooks for over the doors (such a little item that makes a big difference), our Amazon Firestick, our Vitamix blender (I know, this makes us kind of high maintenance!) and a good, sharp kitchen knife.

Once we’re settled in, we start the process of finding necessary local amenities. In the next blog, we’ll cover these details along with steps we take to acclimate to a new community.

Read more from consultants on our Consultant Lifestyle blog.