Starting to work as a locum doctor has been an important landmark in my career. I did it occasionally when I was a registrar, always in hospitals where I had worked in the past. That was about two years ago, and it was mostly for financial reasons; making some extra money in a job I love, and in an environment I knew seemed like a good idea to me.
However, and this may seem surprising, it is only now, after having locumed on a sporadic basis for nearly two years, that I’ve decided to turn locuming into a regular second job. As an NHS consultant, I’ve got more time off and less unsocial hours compared to when I was a fellow. That gives me much more availability, and although is quite nice to top up my salary at the end of the month, the reasons I’m very keen to work extra hours are not primarily monetary.
Reaching consultant level in the UK is great, especially having from a different country and culture, but the downside of it is that my role is sometimes more managerial than clinical, and I have less chances of putting my clinical skills in practice. This is especially true when working in a big centre surrounded by experienced trainees and fellows; I can spend months without intubating a patient or putting in central lines. Working in intensive care, this lack of practice is potentially dangerous; you cannot afford to lose your skills. They are your main asset; you never know when you’re going to need them and when you do you cannot fail. If you do, the patient dies.
Working for an agency gives me the opportunity to keep my technical abilities up to date, and I can do it whenever is convenient for me, and wherever I like to, thanks to the incredibly helpful work of the recruitment consultants, who give me real-time updates about availability in the hospitals and areas I wish to work in. The process behind locuming is absolutely fascinating; I really love how dynamic and vibrant it is. If I want to work, there’s no doubt I can do it thanks to their help. They provide me with a list of the available shifts, call me when they’ve got something interesting, and give me a precise pay rate for those shifts. All I have to do is choose which ones I’m interested in. Sometimes those shifts fall through because they are covered internally at the last minute and sometimes it’s me who sadly can’t cover, but that activity is what makes the process so interesting.
It is also great in terms of experience. I have got to know different hospitals and ways of working, met new teams, colleagues, and different types of patients. In my permanent post, I work in a cardiac centre, so working as a locum in hospitals with a different patient case mix such as trauma, renal, liver, etc. truly widens my scope of practice. It is also great if you want to change your usual environment. From the “touristic” point of view it’s also very interesting, since it has allowed me to visit other areas of London and the UK that I’d otherwise never have the opportunity to visit. I find it very refreshing.
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