Locum GPs face extra challenges
Mar 12 2017
Whether it’s a conscious career move or done temporarily out of necessity, being a locum GP has many lifestyle benefits. It offers variety and above all flexibility, with the ability for GPs to set their own hours and decide how much they want to work - an antidote to the increasingly long hours faced by GPs and the accompanying fear of burnout. Add to that the fact that locum work can be very lucrative, and it’s not hard to see why research suggests that only one in ten trainee GPs plans to work full-time. But being a locum GP is not without its challenges.
Adapting to different working practices
Spending their professional lives travelling from one surgery to another, locum GPs have to be able to adapt quickly to different ways of working. Each surgery has its own way of doing things, whether it’s clinical software, processes or referral pathways, and a locum must rapidly learn the ropes to fit into the routine of that workplace. Having spent a day getting used to the practices of one surgery, a locum GP might be in another surgery the very next day having to work within a completely different system, potentially even with lower standards that could inhibit the locum’s ability to provide top quality patient care. Continually working with new teams of unfamiliar colleagues - whose strengths and weaknesses are unknown - adds to the potential for stress.
Lack of continuity
Moving around from surgery to surgery makes it hard to feel part of a team or community, and this can inevitably make locum GPs feel isolated. Although most surgeries are likely to be used to welcoming locum GPs, the sense of being surrounded by a support network is somewhat diminished. That relative lack of professional support also means there’s more burden on a locum GP to keep up with new information.
Of course, as well as lacking continuity in their own professional lives, locum GPs aren’t able to provide continuity of care for patients, either. A locum doctor will often only see a patient once, and that makes effective patient handover a particular priority and challenge; any follow-up is likely to be carried out by another doctor, and a locum needs to ensure that this lack of continuity of care doesn’t adversely affect the patient. There are also other difficulties associated with patient care, such as signing repeat prescriptions with little or no prior knowledge of a patient’s circumstances.
The risks and administration of running a business
A locum GP has an extra concern on top of their already demanding job: the need to function as a business, along with the uncertainty, financial insecurity and administration that comes with that. The relentless admin includes keeping track of hours, invoicing, accounting, and of course finding and applying for work. The good news is that locum GPs can now lighten their workload by using BookAMed, an innovative online recruitment platform and app that automates much of the administrative aspects of locuming to save time and improve productivity - so that’s one aspect of being a locum GP that doesn’t have to be a challenge.