Is Locuming Right for You?
The benefits of locuming are well known. Locum doctors get more flexibility and autonomy, full control of your own schedule, higher pay, better work-life balance, and the freedom to work across different specialties.
But there are also some downsides to locuming, especially full-time locum work, which mean it isn't suitable for everyone. For example:
👉 Financial uncertainty, with work potentially drying up at times, or only having access to opportunities you won't enjoy
👉 The need to regularly work in different, often unfamiliar settings
👉 Lack of paid holiday and sick pay
👉 Less structured career progression, and often less mentorship.
In this article, we'll explore the prospect of locuming in more detail to give you a better understanding of what it involves, and to help you decide whether it's the right direction for you to take with your own career.
📋 The Key Considerations
If you're considering spending a period of your career doing locum work, it's important to assess your situation carefully to ensure it's a good decision for you personally.
Here are some things to think about in particular:
🏥 The Basics
Alongside your clinical duties, being a locum requires you to be proactive in finding work. Be aware that locuming can be competitive, especially in certain areas and specialties.
A key part of locuming is building relationships with recruitment agencies, and also with the internal staff banks within various Trusts you're working with.
To get up to speed on everything you need to know, check out our related article, Getting Started as a Locum.
💰 Financial Planning
A good place to start here is to first assess your personal financial situation. Look at your expenses, including all bills, mortgage or rent, and so on, and calculate how much you'll need to cover yourself each month. Then factor in any financial aspirations you have, perhaps saving for a house or a fund for travelling one day. This will help you determine how many shifts per week you’d need to work to cover these costs, and at what rate.
Our article, How To Make A Living as a Full-Time Locum Doctor, has more information on this.
You'll also have to take more responsibility for planning and managing your own finances as a locum.
To help you understand what rates you can expect as a locum doctor, we’ve created the Locum Doctor Salary Calculator. This useful tool breaks down the hourly rates of over 40,000 real individual locum jobs which have been offered to doctors on Messly since January 2021.
You can use the salary calculator to answer questions like:
👉 How much can I expect to earn per hour, based on my grade, specialty, and region?
👉 Can I increase my hourly rate by changing the specialty or region that I locum in?
👉 What will I make each month if I work part-time or full-time?
👉 How would this compare to my training or fellowship salary?
Relying on locum work requires flexibility as well. The more flexible you are about the work you’re willing to do, the more likely you are to succeed as a locum.
You should think about things like what specialties you’re comfortable working in, how far you're willing to travel for work, and whether your personal situation allows you to work weekends and nights.
If you can be flexible in these ways, you’re more likely to pick up more work as a locum, possibly at higher rates than average. However, if your personal situation is fairly rigid, or you have a lot of dependencies, you may struggle with locuming.
🤔 So, is Locuming Right for You?
1️⃣ Personal Situation
Do you have any personal or family commitments that mean you'd benefit from working part-time or ad-hoc shifts?
Do you have plans to take a considerable amount of time out to travel or explore your other interests?
If the answer is yes to any of the above, then locuming might be suitable for you, as you’ll have more flexibility to pick your shifts, control your schedule, and earn higher rates to allow you to spend less time at work.
2️⃣ Financial Goals
Are you saving up for a big purchase or expense, like a house, a wedding, or a long holiday?
If so, locuming is a great way to save a lot of money faster than usual, but it’s important to be realistic about how much you’ll earn and what type of work you’re willing to do as well.
To help you understand how to approach making a living as a locum, read our related article here.
3️⃣ Career Aspirations
Having career aspirations in competitive specialties might make it more difficult for you to be a full-time locum. You’ll have to work extra hard to win shifts related to your specialty, and try to arrange portfolio-building events by yourself.
This is not impossible, but it's important to be aware that it's not easy. A popular alternative option that doctors take in this scenario is a six-month clinical fellowship in their specialty. This provides more structured learning opportunities, before spending the next six months locuming.
It's also worth remembering that even if you can’t locum full-time, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it on an ad hoc basis, while completing a fellowship or training post, to increase your income.
💡 Final Thought
Of course, the above points are just a guide and won't necessarily dictate whether or not you should get into locuming. Everyone will have a their own goals and circumstances that need to be taken into account. Whatever your situation is, make sure to do plenty of research into your options, think carefully about the best option in both the short-term and the long-term, and plan ahead as much as possible.
📚 Further Reading and Helpful Resources
If you do decide to pursue locuming, you’ll have plenty of things to prepare in advance, from updating your CV to finding a recruitment agency. To learn more about what you'll need to be successful with locuming, check out some of these useful articles:
⭐️ Finding Work as a Locum Doctor: Bank and Agency: A breakdown of how each works, and their pros and cons of, covering registration, pay, and access to shifts.
💵 Managing Your Finances as a Locum Doctor: An overview of the key financial issues to consider as an F3 locum, including tax codes, your NHS pension, and getting tax rebates, with specialist advice from our friends at Medics' Money.
💰 Tips to Increase Your Locum Pay: Our top tips for maximising your earning potential as a locum doctor.
👋 Locum Doctor Hub: Our comprehensive resource library features an extensive range of articles and guides, covering everything you need to know about locuming.
🛠 The Locum Toolkit: This is your free one-stop-shop for all the apps, services and resources to help make your life as a Locum Doctor a lot easier.
🧾 Decoding Your Locum Payslip: Confused about your first payslip as a Locum Doctor? We’ll take you through the basics so that you can understand and identify any issues affecting your pay.