Why Locum Doctors Should Join a Peer Group
The benefits of being a locum doctor are clear: flexibility, control of your schedule and more disposable income.
But there are two things that we frequently hear non-training doctors and locums say to us after leaving training is:
👉 How lonely being a locum can be.
👉 How locums can struggle to get learning and development opportunities.
It is not uncommon for locum doctors to experience a decline in their social life, despite having more time as a locum to socialise, and more money to spend on social activities.
This is because they lack the companionship and ready-made friendships that come with being a member of a training cohort. When you attend junior doctor teaching or spend months with the same team, it is natural that you form friendships with the people around you, almost without effort.
However, if your friends disperse after F2 ends (perhaps moving back home or overseas) and you start locuming in a number of different departments and hospitals then you may suddenly find making friends and forming relationships harder than you expected.
Not only that, but often locum doctors find that their learning and development gets placed on the backburner. This is because, as locums, we have to organise CPD opportunities for ourselves and schedule them around our shifts, not within them.
In this article, we will discuss:
✅ What is a peer group?
✅ How can a peer group can benefit you as a locum?
✅ How can you find and join a peer group as a locum?
👨🏻🧑 What is a peer group?
A peer group is a small collection of doctors who have similar roles, experience or specialty (but not necessarily) that meet up on a regular basis to discuss research, development, cases, and wellbeing.
Similar to your F1 or F2 cohort, you may have a programme of learning and opportunities to develop that are mandatory for your appraisal or ARCP competencies.
Outside of training, these peer groups often tend to be mainly Consultant groups. But, they do not necessarily need to be: it often depends on who takes the initiative to start and maintain a group.
There is a lot of variety in how peer groups run and are managed, which depends on the group members and the doctor who has assumed responsibility for the group. Some groups are very formal whereas others are more casual and act as an emotional support hub more than an academic one.
🙏 How can a peer group benefit you as a locum doctor?
NHS England has acknowledged that working as a locum doctor comes with specific challenges that the doctor must work to overcome. They have produced some guidance of what is expected of you as a locum, and the responsibilities of your agency or Trust to support you.
‘Locum doctors often do not have easy access to systems or structures in place to support their continuing professional development, appraisal, revalidation, and governance.'
~ NHS ENGLAND
There are two main benefits to joining a peer group:
🙌 Emotional Support
Having a network of doctors that you speak to on a regular basis can be beneficial when looking for advice, support, empathy, information and opportunities. As doctors, it can be hard to find others to talk to from our wider friend group who empathise with the emotional challenges of our work, and a peer group is perfect for this support and discussion.
This is a ‘safe space’ where you might discuss:
🔹 A particular patient or clinical situation, and fears about your handling of it
🔹 Advice on overcoming a challenging work environment, rota or particular colleague
🔹 Questions or concerns about finding work, tax or your financial situation
🙌 Training and Development
The burden of researching and identifying CPD opportunities can be shared within the group, and discussion and reflection for the learning can be done together. Peer groups also provide opportunities for gaining key appraisal evidence such as case presentations or case discussions, and teaching opportunities.
While it is not a requirement to be a member of a peer group, there is no downside to joining one (besides, perhaps the time commitment).
Substantive posts like clinical fellowships will often be associated with a peer group that meets on a regular basis, though the groups may consist of mostly consultants.
❓How can I join a peer group as a locum doctor?
If you want to join a peer group, you could start by discussing it with your appraiser, managing consultant or any consultant who may be a member of a peer group that you want to join to see whether they would allow you to become a member.
If you would rather start your own peer group, then all you need to do is find a group of like-minded non-training doctors (around 5-15 should be plenty) who are interested in participating and willing to attend on a regular basis. Clinical fellows are likely to be keen to participate as their alternative might be to join the same group as their managing consultant which can be intimidating.
You can also recruit to peer group through Facebook (the Foundation Year 3 Doctors Group on Facebook may be a good place to start), Twitter, the Doctor’s Mess of a Trust that you are regularly working in, or through medical staffing (if there are lots of locums or clinical fellows in your Trust).
If you want to read the full document from NHS England; Supporting Locums and Doctors in Short-Term Placements 2018, click here. The guidance talks mostly about the responsibilities of the doctor to gather supporting evidence for their annual appraisal and engage with the revalidation process. It outlines your responsibility for your own CPD but doesn’t specify how this can be achieved. The guidance does not dictate any requirements to participate in a peer group.
📚 Continue Reading
Check out this article if you think you might be suffering from burnout as a locum doctor, or want to understand how to spot the signs.
Your Ultimate Guide to Succeeding as a Locum Doctor
This article is part of a wider series of resources and guides that are designed to support you as a locum doctor, covering areas such as getting your first job, managing your finances, understanding your rights, and many more. Visit our Locum Doctor Hub for everything you need to know about locuming today.
Additionally, if you're considering an F3 year, you might also find it useful to look through the selection of resources we've put together in our F3 Resource Hub.”