There are many reasons to consider locum work. Working as a locum gives you the opportunity to structure your own work life balance. Some doctors like the flexibility as the well as the advantages of self-employment, and decide to become full-time career locums. Others may want to take a break between training programmes, or may want to fill a gap before starting a job or course. Retired doctors may want to continue using their skills. Many doctors do occasional locum work during holidays or weekends to supplement their income.
Regardless of when or why locum work suits you, it is important to be clear about what you want to achieve by taking this path. Here are some things to consider:
As a locum, you will have plenty of opportunities to travel and work in new locations. Consider how far you are willing to travel and for how long you can stay away from home. Travel expenses and accommodation are often (but not always) paid for as part of your contract. You may even find jobs in locations such as Spain and Gibraltar through UK locum agencies. However, this means that you need to be flexible and able to adapt to different working conditions.
2. Financial considerations
Working as a locum pays doctors a higher hourly rate than being in a permanent position. However, this is offset by the absence of sick pay, holiday pay, paid study leave and maternity benefits as well as the uncertainty of work. The actual renumeration you can negotiate will depend on your qualifications and experience as well as the demand for your skills in the professional and geographic areas you want to work. Be prepared for times when there is little or no work. Also, if you are planning to take out a loan or mortgage this may be more difficult if you are self-employed.
3. Your career and professional development
Consider how locum work will impact on your goals for a long-term career. Having a period in your CV where you have done only locum work may affect your ability to gain entrance into some of the more competitive training programs. On the other hand, a period of locum work can broaden your horizons, allow you to explore and gain experience in different settings and help you decide on your future career path. You are responsible for your own training and professional development when you commit to long term locum work. While working in a permanent or training position gives easy access to updating your skills, a locum has to seek opportunities and training to stay up-to-date with the latest medical advances and changes.
It is worth looking at your revalidation date when planning full-time locum work. Revalidation is possible for locums through their locum agency, but the process is more difficult than for those in a salaried position. Agencies usually charge for this service, and locums who do mainly ad-hoc work may find it difficult to gather the assessments and evidence that is required.
Some advantages and disadvantages of locum work:
Advantages of locum work:
· You can earn money while looking for a permanent position
· The flexibility to work where and when you want
· Experience is gained by working in different locations and settings
· Part-time work gives greater control over work life balance
· Part-time work is possible whilst studying
· Higher rates of pay
· Supplementation of your regular income is possible through ad-hoc locum work
· Opportunities to travel
· Leave is generally easy to take
Disadvantages of locum work:
· Work is uncertain, and you only get paid when you work
· Changing work places regularly can lead to perceived isolation
· There may be a lack of support within the workplace
· There is no pension or paid maternity leave
· You will have to submit tax returns, and keep an account of expenses.
· You are responsible for your own training
· Revalidation may be more difficult
· The market for locums constantly changes, and rates of pay may decrease