How to Make Friends as a Locum Doctor
All doctors will be used to the feeling of starting over somewhere new, where you most likely don’t know anyone. However, that feeling may be even more intense for F3 locum doctors who don’t have a readily available supply of new friends through a training programme.
Locum doctors often work ad-hoc shifts, moving between different teams and departments on a daily basis which can make it difficult to form lasting relationships with your peers and colleagues. Additionally, short stints at multiple Trusts far from home can make you wonder whether any friendships you do make will even last.
However, instead of withdrawing into a lonely locum life, consider this: locuming can give you a unique opportunity to meet lots of people over a short period of time - like speed dating for friendships. This means you may be more likely to form better friendships with people you have more in common with.
In this article we will give our top tips for making friends as a locum doctor. Be warned, it does take some effort on your part to put yourself out there!
🏸 Find a hobby or activity
One of the best things about being a locum doctor is that you get to choose your own work schedule. That means that if there is a kickboxing or pottery class every Wednesday evening that you want to attend, then you can (and should) go! Joining an activity is a great way to meet people, as you don't have the pressure of socialising - it just kind of ‘happens’ without much effort. And provided you chose a hobby you really want to do, chances are the people there will be people you’ll like anyway. If not, at least you got to practice a new skill.
There are definitely some activities that are more social than others, so perhaps go for one that gives you the opportunity to meet a large number of people over a short period of time - like rugby or a language class, instead of opting for kitesurfing. Remember, once you have the friends you don’t need to continue to attend the activity.
🤝 Find excuses and be forward
Adult friendships move faster than the ones you formed at school. As an adult, it isn’t weird to ask someone for their phone number, or social media links the first time you meet them. If you have been on a shift with a particularly chatty or fun person, and you’d like to see them again - just ASK! Because if you don’t - you may not cross paths again for a while and you’ve lost an opportunity for a potential friend.
If you aren’t sure how to strike up a conversation with someone, try asking them for something generic, like ‘do you know the code to the equipment room?’ or ‘how do I access the Trust policies on X’ and then if they engage with you, you can open the conversation up to get to know them better. Ask something like ‘have you worked here long?’ ‘where did you train?’ ‘what made you decide to move down to this area?’. You may even be able to get some information about the hospital like which wards are better for locums, and which are notoriously difficult!
If you met someone you liked during a shift, before you leave, ask if you can keep in touch with them. If you don’t want to schedule something in right away, you can always text or comment on their social media for a little while before committing to a meet up in person. It’s great if during your shift, you can find something in common with that person. Maybe you are both excited to see a new movie that is coming out, or maybe you both enjoy surfing. Then, when you suggest meeting up you already have an activity that you know they’ll enjoy!
Great first ‘friendship’ dates usually involve meeting in a neutral space, and doing some kind of activity that involves having something in your hands i.e:
🐕🦺 Dog walk
If you are at a Trust for a short period of time, consider inviting someone you’ve worked with to show you their favourite spots in town, or to go see a local highlight. If your area is known for it’s incredible hikes or beaches, consider inviting someone you’ve just met to accompany you as you explore. Chances are they either love the activity so much that they chose to move to that particular spot of the UK, or they haven’t yet explored the region and will be keen to get to know the area too.
📧 Keep an eye on Trust emails
Trusts sometimes host social events like Christmas parties or summer balls. If this is your idea of Hell then you are certainly not alone. However, embracing the awkwardness can mean a brilliant opportunity to form friendships. You’d likely be able to meet people in an informal environment that usually incorporates some kind of icebreaker activity to help people get to know each other.
Yes, sometimes these events can be clique-y, but you aren’t looking to necessarily break into an already established group. You just need to find two or three other people who came alone to form your own little group of support and confidence. The benefit of this is that often, the group will do the networking for you! Inevitably, one of your new friends will come back from the bar or bathroom having met a new person to bring into the fold and you can grow your connections from there.
📆 Join the doctors mess (if you plan on locuming in one place for a while)
Joining the doctors mess often gives you access to social events and mixers which are great ways for meeting other doctors. Mess presidents know that doctors need regular events to keep the ever-changing pool of trainees feeling socially satiated, and there is no reason why you can’t take advantage of this too.
If an event is marketed at F1s or CT1s in particular, you may want to consider adding these events to the top of your social calendar because it is incredibly likely that these cohorts of trainees will also be new to the Trust, and will be as friendless as you. This means that everyone will be more open to forming new friendships and connections, and you wont feel as awkward or alone.
Even if you don’t end up forming super close friendships, it’s nice to be able to recognise familiar faces around the hospital, particularly for locum doctors who may feel a bit ‘out of the loop’ if they didn’t train at the Trust.
🖥 Reach out in facebook groups
Find the facebook group for junior doctors at your Trust, or reach out in one of the bigger groups like Foundation Year 3 Doctors, or Tea & Empathy asking if anyone at your current Trust wants to meet up. Facebook is a great way to put yourself out there if you prefer the comfort of anonymity, or a buffer of the ‘digital aether’ to make the appeal more palatable. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about rejection, as any replies are voluntary and so you know that whoever gets in touch is interested!
🔍 Join a niche group at your Trust
BAME or LGBTQ+ groups may exist at your Trust and can be a great launching point into meeting like-minded people in your hospital community.
Similarly, staff from different religious groups often have networks within a Trust that you can access. Try speaking to the hospital Chaplain for more information about this.
If you have come to the NHS from overseas, there may be a community of hospital employees who share your home country, or a group for International Medical Graduates who can support each other with the various issues and struggles unique to IMG doctors.
👉 Making friends as a locum can be really rewarding, as you are likely to be exposed to more people and therefore more likely to find people with similar interests to you.
👉 Locums have more time to explore their hobbies and interests, which are great ways to meet like-minded people.
👉 See if your Trust has groups for people with similar interests, stories, experiences, faiths, or backgrounds as you to find people you have an instant connection with.
👉 Utilize the online medical community to arrange meet ups and start conversations with people you’d otherwise never have met.
👉 Take advantage of the social calendar of the doctors mess - and the fact that all doctors rotate to new and unfamiliar places and are as eager to make new friends as you are.
👉 Be willing to put yourself out there and leave your comfort zone to find opportunities to meet new people.
👉 Know that adult friendships work differently to those you formed at school and at university. You can move faster with adults, and that’s not weird!
We would love to know your thoughts on this, so please feel free to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments about this article.
Find locum work on your terms
The best locum agencies together in one place, competing to find you the best locum shifts. Managed for free through your Messly account.