Given the broad range of lifestyle benefits, it’s not surprising that a huge number of medical professionals choose to locum at some point in their careers, whether on a temporary or permanent basis. A more flexible schedule, better hourly rates of pay and the opportunity to gain a broader spectrum of experience of different specialties, locations and management structures attracts increasing numbers to locum work. But, what does it take to be a successful locum?
There are a number of professional attributes that make a person very well suited to the locum life – and more likely to be successful at it:
Reliability – even more so than a full time member of staff, a locum is relied on to show up when they say they will and to fulfill the role that they have agreed to do. Locums are often required to cover staff shortages, peaks in demand or holidays and a popular locum will be someone who can be relied upon to do the job they agreed to.
Flexibility – this applies both to being able to have a flexible schedule that is open to different locations and organisations, as well as the necessity of being flexible within the role itself. You may be working within a number of different places within a short space of time and being flexible with respect to different systems, attitudes and processes is a huge attribute.
Availability – high standards of care are crucial for locums but so is how available you are. Particularly for those with niche skills or professionals working in a specialty that may have ongoing demands, being able to make yourself available when required is the foundation of a successful locum life.
Tech proficiency – if you’re going to be working at a range of hospitals and practices then it’s key to have a good understanding of the tech used so you can grasp different systems. Being technology proficient will ensure you can quickly understand the technology you’re faced with and not be held back or delayed by a lack of technical know how.
Being organised – this is a fundamental for a good locum, both in terms of managing your own career, income and documents, as well as the paperwork and records that will be crucial for every role you take.
Honesty – being up front is the fastest way to get the work you’re looking for as a locum and cuts through the misunderstandings that can arise when people are not straightforward with each other. This applies to everything from being honest about the skills you have and the work you can do, to honestly communicating opinions when at work.
A thick skin – to a certain extent you’re on your own as a locum and a thick skin is an essential to ensure that you don’t take minor issues too seriously or get easily upset by others. Locums don’t have the support of a team so the ability to let things go and not take anything personally is an advantage.
Going the extra mile – locums who down tools the minute their shift ends, regardless of what’s happening, are rarely asked to return.
People who love locuming
Anyone looking for career flexibility – working part time to managing caring or childcare responsibilities, another career, or other commitments is easy to do with a locum lifestyle.
Those looking to earn more – hourly rates for locums are significantly higher than incumbent doctors and overtime is paid for too.
Variety seekers – whether trying to choose a specialty, looking for the perfect job or simply enjoying a mix of people and responsibilities, those looking for a new perspective or a broader range of experiences will find locuming a good fit.
What to be aware of
As a locum you need to be able to sell your skills – a proactive approach is always more likely to result in a higher volume of the kind of work you want.
It’s important to continuously develop skills and knowledge – this is certainly possible as a locum but the responsibility is with the individual, rather than managed on a training programme.
All the skills required of ‘normal’ doctors apply here too! – impartiality, respect, knowledge, empathy, confidence, focus and setting a good example with your own health are all important.