Working as a locum doctor provides the ideal alternative to occupying a permanent position at a general practice or local hospital. Many locum doctors use this form of part-time employment to supplement their existing income. Although the work you will be required to perform as a locum will broadly be the same as what you’d carry out in a permanent position, there are a number of core differences between the two types of employment.

If this is a route that you are leaning towards, then we have put together a guide on everything you need to know to determine whether this route is right for you while also answering the question, “what is a locum doctor?”

What Is A Locum Doctor? A Full Guide To Becoming A Locum Doctor

From covering last-minute healthcare gaps to supporting different departments in times of high demands, locums play an essential role in our health service. With the ability to cherry-pick the positions you take and more flexibility over both your salary and the hours you work, this route of employment possesses many attractive benefits. Not only this, but locum work can also include more long-term opportunities, such as maternity cover.

With this in mind, this guide will expose some of the variations between locum work and traditional GP employment. We will run through exactly what you can expect from a life working as a locum, along with the advantages you can enjoy.

Doctor With young Patient

What Is Locum Work?

So what is locum work? The locum job role is designed to temporarily cover shift gaps in a healthcare facility, whether this may be a hospital, practice or clinic. In fact, the word locum has been taken from the Latin phrase “locum tenens”, which in English means “placeholder”. This means that placements are short term, and it is unlikely that the locum route will lead to a permanent role in the core medical team. Nevertheless, to take on this route of work, you will still need to be fully qualified, registered as a practitioner or GP and have a full registration with the General Medical Council.

When taking on locum work, you will be allocated shifts based on your requirements and, during these, will fulfil the duties of another healthcare professional. The length of placements vary depending on the position; however, most can expect to cover shifts for anywhere between a couple of weeks to a few months. In some cases, there may be placements available that only last for a day or two, but this is less common.

Female Doctor Looking At Notes

When Is The Best Time To Take On Locum Work?

Becoming a locum doctor is beneficial at many stages of your career, with the most common being:

  • At the beginning of your career to help you to decide which speciality path you would like to take
  • Midway through your specialty training to give yourself a break between core and higher training
  • Later in your career as a consultant, GP or specialty doctor who would like more flexibility in their work-life

What Type Of Post Will You Take On?

Once you have decided which stage of your career you will take on a locum placement, you will be assigned to a particular type of post depending on your experience; these are:

Locum Appointment for Training (LAT)
If you take on locum work as a trainee, you will be assigned a clinical supervisor and an educational supervisor to oversee your placement. It is also possible to take on additional training opportunities during your post.

Locum Appointment for Service (LAS)
A LAS post will not involve any training or assessments, but you will still be paired with a clinical supervisor, who will support you throughout your placement.

Consultant, GP or Specialty Doctor Post
Once you have obtained your CCT (Certificate of Completion of Training), you will be able to take on a locum post in a specific department of a healthcare facility. You will not be assigned a supervisor.

Doctors Talking

What To Expect When Working As A Locum Doctor

Working as a locum doctor means that you will be able to take on placements that meet your preferred requirements. With this high level of freedom, you have wider flexibility over your working hours, the locations you wish to work in, the medical services you decide to practise in and the chance to negotiate your salary.

However, this requires you to be well organised, making sure to stay on top of your schedule and incoming finances. If this is an area of life you are dubious about excelling in, then your chosen medical recruitment agency is there to assist you in these processes. They’ll also help you out when it comes to moving from one position to the next. Nevertheless, with each move you make, you will be required to quickly adapt to the different environments and staff members.

As a locum doctor, you can expect to oversee a considerable number of patients; however, you’re far less likely to attend to the same patients repeatedly. Some locums find this aspect of work exciting, but equally, it can be challenging to familiarise yourself with individual patient cases before having to move on again.

Now that you are aware of what to expect from locum life, you may be intrigued to hear some of the advantages that this type of work entails.

Male Doctors Talking

The Benefits Of Becoming A Locum Doctor

You can guarantee that with locum work, you’ll be able to develop the ideal work-life balance whilst experiencing a range of different working environments. Here are some of the other benefits you can expect to experience in this type of work:

Experience A Range Of Environments

Often, one of the most common reasons why doctors choose the locum route is for the chance to experience a variety of medical disciplines and working environments. If you are a junior doctor and unsure of what area you wish to specialise in, spending some time as a locum can be extremely valuable. Locum work allows you to experience employment in various environments, including emergency departments, the military sector, or local general practice.

Similarly, if you are an experienced and established doctor looking to explore alternative avenues, then trying out work as a locum could be something to consider. Doctors who are looking for ways to change their career path often switch to locum work later on in their career, especially if they have been employed by the same practice in the same role for a number of years. It allows you to test different options before deciding whether you’d like to stick with what you know or take on a new role.

For more information on the types of roles available for doctors, take a look at the NHS website. Alternatively, you can find a number of training opportunities on the Medical Schools Council.

Doctor In Theatre Room

Additional Source Of Income

Although you will be able to find some long-term work as a locum, as mentioned previously, the majority of locum doctor jobs will be on a short-term basis. If you find yourself out of work, or are looking to specialise in a specific branch of medicine and are having difficulties finding a position, then seeking locum work in the meantime is a perfect way of maintaining financial stability whilst doing what you enjoy.

The temporary positions are guaranteed to provide you with valuable medical experiences that you can utilise when applying for future positions. If a permanent role is not something you are looking for, don’t give up on your career ambitions and settle. Embarking on locum work while you wait for the ideal job to arise is one of the best temporary employment solutions.

Travel To New Locations

Working in the healthcare industry means that it often feels as if there is little time to travel, explore new areas or see whether you might like to relocate. However, with locum work, should you be willing to travel further afield, you can request placements in different areas across the country, perhaps even overseas.

Along with having the chance to travel to new locations, locum work is also handy to take on if you need to move to a new area for other commitments. For example, if your partner must relocate for a job, becoming a locum doctor is ideal for maintaining a steady income while you go through the process of finding a new permanent position.

Doctor Comforting Patient

Enjoy The Benefits Of Flexible Working

One of the key selling points of locum works is the level of freedom and flexibility that cannot be achieved in permanent roles. If you have young children, travel demands or family members to take care of, then locum work can offer the flexibility to accommodate your personal responsibilities.

With the ability to take control of your career opportunities and workflow, locum life allows you to effectively balance your personal life with work. This is also ideal if you are a junior doctor in the process of gaining additional qualifications as locum work provides you with that extra time to study. Not only this, but you’ll find that you have more free time to put into enjoying any out of work hobbies you are involved in, helping you to feel more balanced and focused when back on the ward.

Finding And Securing Locum Employment

Enlisting the support of healthcare recruiters will be the easiest and most common route for those seeking locum employment. The role of a recruitment agency is to oversee the full process of finding and securing work for you, which means a lot of the legwork is done on your behalf. This will include things such as locating accommodation and making travel arrangements. In some cases, there may also be opportunities for additional training as part of your placement. All you will need to do is spend time with your dedicated consultant to discuss your requirements, allowing them to get to know you on a personal basis before pairing you with positions.

Generally, agencies offer more flexibility when it comes to working hours and will source both long-term and short-term roles. This provides you with a much greater choice for finding the position most suitable for you. Locum agencies will also source work on a national basis which will make it easier for finding placements in your desired location. Moreover, as almost all liaising with your temporary employer will be through your consultant, you will be assured that you will always be paid on time and often on a weekly basis.

If you are looking for a reliable, reputable medical recruitment agency, please do not hesitate to register with Medical-Locums Group. We specialise in various sectors, from doctor and nursing recruitment to mental health and AHP/HSS. Our team not only have decades of experience but are also committed to taking a personal approach, ensuring that healthcare professionals are paired with placements that allow them to strive in their career.

Surgeon In Theatre

Reap The Benefits Of Locum Work

From the freedom to determine your own working schedule to the chance to work in a variety of practices across the country, taking on the role as a locum doctor comes alongside a wealth of desirable benefits. During your time on placements, you will be able to explore different career paths and switch between sectors, broadening your experience and helping you to decide your longer-term career plans. This will all be while providing the same level of medical care that you would in any other permanent role!

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