A Step-By-Step Guide to Locuming Through Agencies in 2023
If you’ve decided you’re going to work as a locum doctor and take a year out of training (i.e. as an F3 ), you'll probably be wondering how the process of signing up to an agency works, and how you actually go about getting work through them. To help you understand and approach this process, we've provided a helpful guide below.
If you're still in your F2 year, for an idea of when you should be getting set up with agencies, have a look at our full timeline for planning your F3 year. If you're planning in locuming at any other stage of your career, have a look at our time for finding locum work.
1️⃣ Step 1 - Decide what kind of work you’re looking for
Knowing specifically what kind of work you want is crucial, both in finding the right agency for you and for getting the best service from your rep once you’ve signed up.
Before you register with any locum agency, have a think about the following:
👉 Where you want to work, and how far you’re willing to travel
👉 Which specialties you most want to work in, and whether you’d consider any others
👉 How many hours per week you want to work
👉 Whether you want a full-time position or would prefer ad hoc work
👉 What kind of shifts you’re looking for, for instance weekdays only or weekends/nights
👉 What hourly rate you're expecting
Of course, your financial position will have an impact on your answers to the above questions, so it’s worth taking a look at our article here for tips on how to manage your finances and plan ahead.
If you’re not sure yet, that’s fine. Take some time to investigate, have some conversations with other doctors to see what’s out there, and try to get a feel for how much you might earn and where would be a good fit for you.
2️⃣ Step 2 - Make a shortlist of suitable agencies
Once you know what you’re looking for, you can approach agencies that you think might be a good fit for you.
Finding the right agencies to work with is extremely important.
There's a huge amount of variation out there in terms of the roles they have available. Most have either regional or local areas where they focus, and some obviously have better reputations than others.
You can read our deep dive on this here for tips on how to decide which agencies to approach. You can find out how Messly is different to agencies and how we help support you in finding better locum work here.
Make a shortlist, and arrange a registration call with your chosen agencies by booking through their website or through Messly’s bespoke service.
3️⃣ Step 3 - Have registration calls with your chosen agencies
Your relationship with an agency will begin with an introductory call where they’ll try to get to know you. They’ll use this to ask about what kind of work you’re looking for and explain how they’ll aim to work with you. It’s also a great chance for you to interview them, in a sense, to gain an understanding of whether they’re a good match for you.
Remember, these calls are non-committal. If you’re not keen on signing up with that agency after the call, or your circumstances change, you can always walk away. They’re not allowed to hold your data on file if you ask them to remove it, so you shouldn’t hear from them again (until you’re ready).
Check out our article here which has the specific questions you should be asking an agency before you register, as well as some other useful tips on how to approach the call.
4️⃣ Step 4 - Decide whether to go ahead
Once you’ve had your calls it’s important to think about which recruiter is right for you. Generally the person you’ve had your call with will be your recruiter, but this can vary sometimes.
Your recruiter will be the main person advocating for you, finding you work, and negotiating with Trusts on your behalf. This means it’s important to choose a recruiter who you think you’ll have a good relationship with.
For more information about this, see our article on what makes a good recruiter here to help you get this part of the process right.
5️⃣ Step 5 - Get compliant
Once you’ve decided who you want to sign up with, the next step is getting compliant.
Compliance is the process of registering with the agency, which includes sending them all your professional documents and occupational health information, as well as completing all the mandatory training they require.
As part of this process, you’ll need to send them an up-to-date medical CV. If you need guidance to get your CV in shape to find locum jobs, see our article providing detailed advice for writing that important document.
Until you’re fully compliant, the agency can’t give you any shifts. Therefore, you need to get this done sooner than later, and they’ll remind you very frequently! For tips on how to make this as easy as possible, have a look through our Messly Compliance Toolkit.
6️⃣ Step 6 - Start looking for work and signing up to shifts
Once you’re fully compliant with an agency, your dedicated recruiter will start looking for shifts that may match your interests and preferences.
Some agencies send out regular emails with opportunities for shifts, sometimes on a daily basis. Your recruiter may also get in contact directly with anything they think would suit you personally. For more tips on how to get the most from your locum agency, you can read our dedicated article by clicking here.
When you find a shift you’re keen to work, you’ll need to ask the agency to put you forward for it. As part of this, you'll have to propose a pay rate (with advice from the agency). The Trust will look at the CVs of all the candidates and decide who to book for the shift.
7️⃣ Step 7 - Working your shift
When you’ve been booked for a shift, you’ll get a booking confirmation from the agency with reporting instructions. This may also include login details for IT systems, although you could be given these on your arrival at the hospital the day of the shift.
You’ll likely need to sign terms and conditions for the shift before you start work. You will also need to check with your recruiter how to claim for pay and when you can expect to be paid. Most will do this through an online timesheet system, but some are still done on paper timesheets which need to be signed by the consultant on call at the end of your shift. You’ll usually be paid the week after your shift.
If you’re working a long-term locum doctor position, you can check out our article about how to make the most of that situation here.
⬆️ Our Top Tips
1. Be clear and specific about what kind of work you’re looking for.
2. Speak to a few agencies, either via recommendations or through Messly’s service, so you know what kind of work you can expect to get.
3. Get compliant quickly with your chosen agencies so you can start booking shifts when you want to.
4. Check the details of your shift, including reporting instructions and how to claim your pay.
If you follow the above tips then it should make the process of signing up to a locum agency and getting work very straightforward for you. Of course, if you need any more information or have any further questions, don't hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Messly team!
This article is part of a wider series, supporting doctors like yourself with a comprehensive set of guides to ensure your F3 year is a success. These guides cover everything from initial planning, options for moving abroad, help with finding work, and tips for making the most of the experience. Click here to visit our F3 Resource Hub to explore the full list of guides and articles.
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