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  • Writer's pictureDavid Harper

To Be Or Not To Be: A Locum

If you’ve just successfully completed your pre-reg exam and joined the register, first of all, take a few days (or weeks) to pat yourself on the back. Congratulations! That was five years of toiling to gain the credentials that will form the foundation of the rest of your career and you deserve a moment to appreciate that.

After the new dawn however, a whole new question arises and for the budding pharmacist left alone in a large world, this can seem overwhelming. On the plus side, by passing your pre-reg a whole new plethora of opportunity has opened before you. Yet, without guidance, all these options can be confusing. Which to take? Where to go? What path of pharmacy do I want to take?

In 2014, £82m was spent in Scotland alone for the facilitation of locum doctors, a rise of £18m from 2013, proving that the locum option has never been more widely or warmly received in the healthcare industry. But why? What are the benefits that hundreds of operatives nationwide are reaping by being a locum… and yet, indeed, what pitfalls does it include too?

The Pros

  1. Adaptability. Getting a full-time pharmacist position at a pharmacy local or acceptably commutable to you is far from a guarantee. In fact, depending on your area, full-time spots can be few and far between and come with a high degree of competition. In being a locum, you can perform admirably your duties across a variety of clinics, pharmacies and supermarkets in closer vicinity, rather than taking a full-time job a long distance away.

  2. Pay. When done actively and constantly, a locum can match or even exceed the grade of pay a full-time pharmacist collects, however a lot of it will boil down to being flexible in working during peak-rate times, potentially including evenings and weekends. A locum is best served to strike when the iron is hot, taking in as much work as they can when it’s available and taking holidays/time-off when it’s not. Particularly during Summer, when a lot of pharmacists take holiday leave, observe Ramadan or Eid, opening up lots of spots for locums to take on work. On the flipside, winter seasons can be much quieter, hence we advise locums to take holidays during this period.

  3. Control Of Your Environment. It goes without saying that a pro of being freelance is that you’re not tied to one place or environment. Depending on other people in any given working environment, it’s a simple truth that you might not be appreciated or respected. Rather than being tied to such toxicity, you can offer your services to the places you’re most wanted. It’s also good practice to see how different pharmacies operate. If your ultimate goal is to go full-time, working as a locum first can allow you to taste the operating procedure of a place and discover whether it’s a place you’d like to work. It also gives you a far better chance of landing the full-time work if the people at the pharmacy already know you and your track record of success.

Being a locum can be a convenient and outright lucrative deal, if you’re willing to put in the organisation that comes with it. Being self-employed, a lot of leg-work comes with being a locum, which can lead to a whole host of reasons why people a) don’t want to do it and b) find they’re not very good at it.

The Cons

  1. Lack Of Stability. As with any self-employed work, the one big pitfall is the missing guarantee of consistent work. You will be moving, you will be working different hours on different days, on a weekly basis. Sometimes, you may be working weekends and other times you could go a week without work. The solution is in long-term planning; making sure your calendar is filled well in advance. Particularly with regards to healthcare, it’s important you fulfill booked dates, as not doing so and causing disruption will cause pharmacies & agencies to blacklist you in the future. Being a successful locum requires organisation and if it’s not your strong point, you could find yourself short of work and short of money.

  2. Social Oppression. Initially, locums can get a cold shoulder in a new place. Particularly as successful locums can make more money than in-house pharmacists, you could be seen as bit of an outcast and dealing with the social pressure can make your workplace a trial. Eventually, once you’ve build relationships with the teams, this will hopefully change but particularly at the start when you’re new and working a lot of new venues, this can be a shock which puts potential locums off.

  3. No Employment Rights. Another frequent pitfall of self-employment, you will not receive any of the benefits a full-time contracted pharmacist would: paid holidays, sick pay or guaranteed redundancy. You’ll also have to manage your tax returns. This does not mean you’re worse off- far from it- but it does mean you’ll need to personally manage your own budgets and adjust your rates to cover whatever expenses and living costs you require. Managing your own budgets, particularly with ever changing levels of income can be confusing and stressful to those not good with money and is a consideration.

The answer to this question then lies in what you’re prepared to do. If you’re prepared and willing to manage your own organisation: your time, your money and your travel then there are a huge degree of benefits- particularly financial- that can be found in being a locum. However, if you feel the constant level of diary and budgetary management is not appealing to you, whether because of the extra stress or because you feel you’re not the best at managing such things, the procedure involved with being a locum could be too much.

So How Can We Help?

With all the pressures that go with managing your time and money as a locum, one challenging aspect you don’t need adding to your plate is the actual sourcing of work. Pharmaseekers has been connecting locums with vacancies nationwide for over thirteen years now and in that time we’ve built up a remarkable reputation with hundreds of pharmacy clients.

By registering with us for our uncharged service to all locum pharmacists, dispensers and technicians, we can provide the work to you as it is sourced and make you a favourite (priority choice) for future work from pharmacies you attend if they feedback that you’ve done a superb job.

All of the work is delivered to you and can be accessed in bitesize chunks through our app on your mobile device, meaning you’re never more than a swipe away from seeing your diary in full. You’ll also receive reminders from us about work you’ve taken on in advance, aiding your organisation.

Taking the step into the world of a locum is an astute choice more and more recent graduates are taking on a yearly basis and yet it comes with an array of organisational concerns some just aren’t willing to take on. If you can manage yourself, the money to be made in being a locum is remarkable… and it’s why we exist to facilitate it.

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