For doctors who have only ever worked within the confines of a training programme, the idea of working as a locum doctor can feel daunting. I found myself in this boat. I never really had to think about looking for work, it was more about jumping through hoops – first medical school, then foundation training, specialty training, and so on.
Once I had the option to explore the locum route, however, I was struck with a dilemma. Do I work through an agency or should I take on a fixed-term trust grade doctor post? The latter sounded tempting because I thought it would be guaranteed work for six months or so. But a trust grade post also comes with a lot of the similarities of being a trainee - similar working hours and pay, and little freedom or flexibility to do other things.
I reasoned, as someone who was looking to travel and spend time with my family in a much more flexible way than I had during my years a trainee, that working as a locum would be a much better fit.
Though, I was still left with some doubts. ‘What if there just aren't any locum jobs out there for me?’ I thought. Well, as I learnt, it's not that difficult to find out.
If you’re curious about what sort of work is available, you can start searching for locum doctor jobs directly on an agency’s website to get a feel for what kind of locum work is out there for your specialty area(s). If you like what you see, you can register.
Once you’ve signed up, you’re assigned a designated placement officer who will keep you updated with new jobs that become available.
Several months before I took on any locum work, I had signed up with Medacs Healthcare, just to get a feel for what kind of jobs were being released, their locations and the frequency of new locum jobs for doctors.
Once I started taking on work, I never had any problems finding work. In fact, the plentiful availability of jobs meant I was able to be quite particular when it came to selecting the type of job I wanted.
Several years ago, I was referred to Medacs Healthcare by a work colleague. I was excited after how great they had made it sound, but this excitement quickly died down once I realised there was paperwork involved in signing up. I ended up slowly just drifting away and not completing the registration process.
Some years later, with a clearer plan of how locum work would benefit me, I got in contact with Medacs Healthcare to register again. My attitude to the paperwork was very different this time and, actually, it became a lot more obvious that signing up with Medacs Healthcare was very similar to signing on to work at any new trust.
Of course, the added benefit was that, once I’d signed up with Medacs Healthcare, I was able to work at many different trusts without having to keep re-doing the paperwork. The value of this must not be understated, in particular, to any trainee only too familiar with the pain of repeating pre-employment checks every time they rotate between trusts.
In my experience, doctors are good at talking about being underpaid, but often we have very little experience when it comes to negotiating pay. I was worried that working as a locum doctor would involve lots of awkward conversations about my pay with different people. This was far from reality.
As a locum doctor, your pay depends on many factors, such as the specialty, the trust, the training grade, your level of experience and how competitive the job is. Your placement officer, who is a specialist in recruiting within your field, will have recruited plenty of doctors into similar positions before you. They can give you a rough idea of what the pay rates for locum doctors might be based on all of these factors.
The financial remuneration for working as a locum doctor was certainly better than as a trainee. But ultimately, the pay is just one of the things that anyone considers when choosing a job. For different doctors, it is of greater or lesser importance.
All of this can be conveyed to your placement officer, who will negotiate your pay on your behalf. This means you don’t have to have any awkward conversations, leaving you to focus on your clinical role.
I used to worry that jobs advertised for locum doctors were likely to be 'bad' jobs, which only required a locum because it was difficult to recruit anyone into the job. However, as I've learnt from working in a variety of locum jobs, this was far from the truth - there was a multitude of reasons why a job had been put out for locum.
Here are some of the reasons that I experienced: a post that couldn't be filled by a trainee for a technical administrative reason, an extra pair of hands to support the substantive doctors with managing a high workload, a trainee being re-deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic, a trainee going off sick and even covering a trainee during their annual leave.
As such, I have worked as a Medacs Healthcare doctor in highly desirable jobs that I would have been happy to work in as a trainee. I haven't had any major issues with any of my jobs.
But what if you do get a job that you're not happy with?
Your placement officer is there to support you throughout the job. If you have any difficulties, such as access to clinical supervision, IT systems, etc., then they will be able to advise you. Remember that it's also in the interest of the trust to keep you on, so raising and ironing out issues with the job is of benefit to you and the trust.
All in all, having anxieties about working as a locum doctor is entirely understandable, but in reality, these worries may be nowhere near as significant as you might think. The agency simplifies the whole process and your dedicated placement officer will be on hand to guide you through the process of finding locum work as a doctor and cover all bases when it comes to paperwork, pay and the type of locum work you prefer.
If you’re eager to explore the locum doctor job opportunities Medacs Healthcare has on offer, get in touch with us today. We have an exciting range of flexible locum jobs to suit your lifestyle.
For work in England and Wales, please call 0800 442 200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For work in Scotland, please call 0800 442 215 or email email@example.com.
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