Your Timeline for Finding Locum Work in 2023
As locum work is becoming more competitive these days, it can be difficult to find good job opportunities. Of course, you don't just want to find a high volume of shifts, you also want to be finding work that suits your interests, experience, and all your other preferences.
So, how can you do this? The key to finding great locum work is to do plenty of research and preparation, and start as early as possible. This will make it easier to gain access to the best possible shifts ahead of your competition. It's also beneficial to secure your shifts a few weeks in advance, so you can do any additional preparation before starting in the role.
We recommend working backwards in a timeline from your first day of work to the very beginning of your search, to ensure you've got every step of the process covered. To simplify this for you, we've created this useful timeline which will help you succeed in your search for the best locum work available.
🗓️ 90 Days in Advance – Research and Make Your Plan
Before you start searching for shifts, you'll need to do some research and decide what kind of locum work you want to do. There are lots of variables and factors when it comes to locum shifts, which can impact how many opportunities you have available, how much money you earn, and more. That's why it's important to know specifically what kind of work you want in advance.
Answer the following questions to make a decision about what kind of locum work you'll be applying for:
👉 Where you want to work, and how far you’re willing to travel
👉 Which specialties you want to work in, and whether you’d consider any others
👉 How many hours per week you want to work
👉 Whether you want a long-term locum position or would prefer less frequent work
👉 Whether you're willing to work night shifts and on weekends
👉 What hourly rate you're expecting.
To Do List
✅ As well as thinking about those questions, you can gain a detailed understanding of the volume of shifts, and the pay on offer, across all the specialties and different regions in the UK by visiting our Locum Data Hub. This provides a detailed breakdown of the data behind all the key variables involved with working as a locum doctor today. Once you've done that, you'll have a better idea of your preferences and what you can achieve as a locum.
✅ Once you've decided what specialty you'll be working in, invest some time into updating your CV and begin preparing to tailor it to each individual role you'll be applying for. If you're going to be doing work in two different specialities, you'll need two separate CVs. Be sure to highlight the skills and experience you have within the speciality, and keep it to two pages maximum. Working on your CV is crucial, as it will help you stand out from the competition. If you need some guidance with this, our article linked here provides detailed advice for getting this key document right.
✅ To gain an understanding of how much you should be earning from your shifts, use our Locum Doctor Salary Calculator to get a feel for the current market rates.
✅ It's also important to remember that while you're working as a locum doctor, you'll be responsible for managing all your own finances. We'd recommend doing as much research and preparation for this as you can at this stage. To help you get everything in order, from taxes to your monthly budget, we've produced a detailed guide for locums here.
📖 Is Locuming Right For You?: Not sure whether you want to work as a locum doctor? No problem. This article will take you through some of the key thoughts you'll need to consider when deciding if it's right for you.
📖 Getting Started As A Locum Doctor: We understand that getting started as a Locum Doctor can feel daunting. That's why we wrote this guide to give you a summary on the key points to help get you started.
📖 Your Locum FAQs Answered: We've collated and answered the most common questions which crop up for doctors looking into locuming, and current locums who are looking for support, with additional advice about where to find more information.
📖 How to Make a Living as a Full-Time Locum Doctor: Exploring how much you might expect to earn from locum work as an F3, highlighting key financial and work-related considerations you should be making, and providing advice to help manage your finances.
📖 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.
🔍 60 to 90 Days in Advance – Start Your Search
Around two or three months before you hope to begin locuming, it's time to start your job search! This is the best time to start having real conversations about the type of work you're looking for. This will give recruitment agencies a clear idea of what work they need to find for you, based on your plan and preferences.
Why So Early?
1️⃣ - You'll get feedback on what is and isn't available. The earlier you do this the better, so can adjust your plans and manage your own expectations. For example, perhaps want to work in a low-volume specialty, or find there are limited options within your travel distance. If this is the case, and you realise you might struggle to find enough opportunities, make alternative plans to ensure you'll be able to find work. As mentioned earlier, our Locum Data Hub will help you figure all this out quickly and easily.
2️⃣ - You'll be able to get ahead of the game with registration to recruitment agencies, which means you’ll be the first to gain access to any relevant shifts. It's also beneficial to have plenty of time to work with, in case an issue arise.
To Do List
✅ Register with any relevant staff banks. As working with a bank only allows you work in one Trust, which is limited when compared to a locum agency which can find you work in any hospital. To learn more about the differences between staff banks and locum agencies, read this helpful article here.
Think carefully about where you're likely to want to work before you do register with a bank. If you're an F3 doctor, this is usually a hospital where you rotated during your Foundation Training. It's also important to be aware that staff banks can take around six weeks to process your registration, so do this as early as possible.
✅ Create account on Messly, so you can have the best shifts find you. Messly is a faster, simpler, and more transparent way to find locum work. We hand-pick the very best locum agencies, then make them compete to find you the work you want and pitch relevant shifts to you.
Since we launched in 2016, we’ve helped over 7,000 doctors find locum work, including 1,350 current F3s. We’re proud to have hundreds of amazing reviews from doctors on TrustPilot as well, showing just how easy it is to find a fulfilling locum career with our service.
✅ Start having your initial calls with locum agencies. Your relationship with an agency will begin with an introductory call. This is a no-obligation chat which provides you with an opportunity to understand what work they might have for you and whether they're a good match for your needs.
They’ll ask a few questions about what you’re looking for and explain how they’ll aim to work with you. If you’re not keen on working with that agency after the call, or your circumstances change, you can always walk away. Check out our article exploring this in more detail here, where we cover 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.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Locuming Through an Agency: A helpful step-by-step guide to working with a locum agency, to help you have a positive and successful experience in getting the types of shifts you're looking for.
How to Get the Most From Your Locum Agency: Once you're registered and fully compliant an agency, you'll then begin working with them to find shifts. This article explains how that process works and provides some useful tips for getting the most out of your relationship with your locum agency.
Finding Work as a Locum Doctor: Bank and Agency: A breakdown of how each works, and their pros and cons, covering registration, pay, and access to shifts.
What Makes a Good Recruitment Agent: Detailed guidance to help you judge whether a recruiter is a good match for you, and how to know what makes a good recruiter overall.
📝 45 to 60 Days in Advance – Begin Registrations
Whether working with a bank or an agency, or looking for short-term or long-term locum work, you'll need to complete a registration process before you can start working as a locum.
This is because there are rules in place to ensure you’re eligible and safe to work in each role you apply for, designed to protect your patients and colleagues. If you’re working with an agency, they'll help you get compliant when you register and they'll be responsible for certifying that the checks have been done.
These checks cover six main areas:
👉 Your right to work (nationality and visa)
👉 Your employment history (CV and references)
👉 Your professional registration (GMC status and other certificates)
👉 Your occupational health (vaccinations and blood tests)
👉 Your criminal record (DBS checks, formerly called CRB).
Get all your documents ready to go in advance to streamline this process, and keep digital copies for easy access later on. If you're organised, the checks can be done in a week or two. However, if you face any delays or issues, these can easily take longer.
The most common problems to be conscious of avoiding are failing to have the right certificates to hand and having to track them down, referees not responding, and waiting for a fresh DBS check to come back.
To Do List
✅ Use our handy Docs service (available once you've created an account) to learn all about the requirements for locum doctors.
✅ Start collecting all the necessary documents for your registration process and begin sharing those with your recruitment agencies.
✅ When your agency starts introducing you to hospital departments, use this as an opportunity to get some feedback on your CV. Your agency may have questions about your experience, so wait for this first.
📖 The Compliance Toolkit for Locum Doctors
📖 Answering the Key Registration Questions for Locum Doctors
🏥 14 to 30 Days in Advance – Confirm Your Shifts
Hopefully, around one month before you're hoping to start working, your first locum job will be confirmed with the department. Congratulations! 🎉
Once you know what date you'll be starting and where you will be working, you can begin to relax a little. Use the peace of mind that you’ll have some locum income soon to take a step back and put some of your focus into the job you'll be doing.
To Do List
✅ Start preparing for your first day as a locum doctor in a new work environment. To make sure you have a great first day as a locum in a new hospital, read our related article linked here.
📖 If you're going to be working in an unfamiliar speciality, don't worry too much. We've produce a selection of useful guides for locuming in new specialties, which you can find here:
📖 Tips for Locuming in a New Specialty – Obstetrics and Gynaecology
📖 Tips for Locuming in a New Specialty – General Medicine
📖 Tips for Locuming in a New Specialty – Paediatrics
📖 Tips for Locuming in a New Specialty – General Surgery
📖 Tips for Locuming in a New Specialty – Trauma & Orthopaedics
📖 Tips for Locuming in a New Specialty – Emergency Medicine
🩺 In Summary
👉 Start planning for your locum job search early, and try to give yourself at least two months to start the registration process.
👉 Get a feel for how much work will be available based on your preferences, and adjust your plan if necessary.
👉 Get your all your necessary documents ready as early as you can, and make digital copies for convenience.
👉 Getting these across to agencies early will give you time to try and get a hold of these documents if they’re missing
👉 Use Messly to have the best locum agencies pitch relevant shifts to you.
👍 Good luck!
If you still feel like you have any concerns or need any extra help getting started as a locum, visit our Locum Doctor Hub. This is an extensive library of helpful resources, guides, and articles that will teach you everything you need to know about locuming!
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