Tips for Settling into a Long-Term Position as a Locum Doctor
So you’ve just started a long-term locum position... These longer lasting roles are often seen as the holy grail for most F3s and locum doctors!
You’ve hopefully figured out the parking situation and where to get food by now, as well as where the wards are that you cover. But how do you truly settle in and become comfortable when you’re working with a new team, in a new hospital, or if you're starting at a different time of year to other SHOs and haven’t had an induction?
This article will help you get settled into a long-term locum position where you find yourself joining a new team or working in an unfamiliar hospital, how to make the most of your time there, and what to do if any issues arise.
🤝 How to Settle in as Part of a New Team
This applies to any time you start a new job and begin working with people you may not have met before. The main thing is of course to be friendly and approachable!
Our advice for landing a long-term locum position would be to start by taking the following steps:
- Introduce yourself to everyone you meet. Some people may not do this for you, so you need to be brave otherwise you become anonymous!
- Try to learn everyone’s names early on.
- Eat lunch with your colleagues and socialise whenever possible (whilst socially distancing, of course).
- Most teams will have a WhatsApp group for SHOs/registrars, so ask to be added into it!
- Get to know the rota coordinator, and ask to be put on the lists to receive emails about timetabled teaching, weekly rotas, etc. so you're kept up-to-date with what’s going on.
🏥 How to Settle in at a New Hospital
If you’ve not worked in your new hospital before, it can feel daunting starting a long-term position there without having an induction. If you find yourself in this situation, try the following:
- Get to know the place! Walk around and get a feel for where everything is. And when you need to go somewhere, like A&E or other wards to review patients, ask one of your new colleagues to show you around.
- Find out where the equipment is in the ward areas that you cover, including the emergency trolley.
- Get to know the computer systems, and ask for help if you need it. This will help you learn how to request investigations, finding out where reports are uploaded, looking at scans, prescribing medications, discharging people, as well as viewing clinic letters and GP records. Some places have e-learning for this which you can ask to have assigned to you.
- Find out where the local guidelines are, especially for the common conditions you're likely to come across in your specialty as well as antibiotic guidelines. Some hospitals use apps for this, so ask around to find out where the best place to get the guidance is.
💯 How to Get the Most From Your Time There
A long-term position is the best way to get learning opportunities compared to short-term jobs, so if you’re interested in the specialty you’re working in as a future career then make the most of your time there! Here's how we'd suggest you approach this:
- Let people know what you’re interested in. Tell your colleagues what your career plan is so they can help you while you’re there.
- If you have specific learning objectives, tell people! They'll usually be happy to help, as most people enjoy teaching, and you can often get just as many learning opportunities as the other juniors if you make it clear that you're keen.
- If you want to get audits or quality improvement projects, make sure you let everyone know early on so you can get involved in any projects available.
- Find out when the weekly teaching is and try to attend. Even if you’re not on shift that day it's often worth coming in for it as it shows you're eager to learn. Plus, you'll need to have evidence of continuing professional development (CPD) for your yearly appraisals, as detailed here.
🧐 Dealing With Any Issues
As with most jobs, sometimes issues can arise during a long-term locum position, but these are usually solved easily by asking the right people for help. Here's our advice for dealing with some of these potential issues:
- Be sure to always submit your timesheets before deadlines to avoid delays with payment.
- If your shift times change, ask for a written record of the change from the rota coordinator, make a note of the hours you’ve worked, and if you’re working with an agency then let them know too. That way, if there are any problems with payment later on you'll have the paper trail you need to resolve it easily.
- Keep in regular contact with your agency if you're working through one, as they can be really helpful in dealing with any problems for you. For example, if shift patterns or your job role change unexpectedly, if you get any issues with payment, or any other concerns you may have.
- If you ever need time off, whether your circumstances change or you need to cancel any shift, let the agency know with plenty of notice and discuss with them the best way to communicate it to the hospital. Sometimes it can be better coming from you telling the rota coordinators directly, especially if you can then offer swaps to minimise the inconvenience. Remember that although you're a locum doctor, and therefore have the right to cancel shifts last-minute, so do they! It’s best to try and keep them onside and give them plenty of warning anytime you need time off.
- If you’re working directly with a Trust, the rota coordinator is often the best person to speak to if you have any administrative questions, requests, or issues. If it’s a clinical problem, an approachable senior colleague will be the best person to speak to.
📋 Our Top Tips, in Summary
1. Be friendly and sociable
2. Don’t be afraid to approach people and ask for help
3. Ask for a tour of your new hospital and get to know where everything is early on
4. Familiarise yourself with the systems and guidelines
5. Seek out learning or career opportunities proactively if you want them
6. Ask for help with any issues from the rota coordinators or agency staff
7. Use our 'Locum Toolkit' for all the apps, services and resources to help make your life as a Locum Doctor a lot easier
Going into a new long-term role as a locum doctor in an unfamiliar hospital can be challenging, but if you follow the above advice then getting settled in should prove to be far easier. By taking our tips on board, you’ll be able to hit the ground running when you start and should begin to feel at home in no time!
We've also written guides for each of the main specialties, giving you tips on how to settle into those departments. These are especially useful if you haven’t rotated through that specialty in your Foundation Training rotations.
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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