Ok, so you might be seduced by the attractive rates of pay, but if that is all that drives you then I foretell that you will quickly run out of enthusiasm.
There are in fact many reasons, other than financial, why locum work can be a rewarding experience. Here is a brief, but not exhaustive list:
Break of routine: Are you in a professional rut? A locum is a great circuit breaker. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be refreshing and will allow you to return to your regular life re-invigorated.
Perspective: Statistically, you work in a well-to-do metropolitan area. Seeing “how the other half lives” might just revive the idealist medical student within you.
Expand your horizons: If your idea of travel is five-star resorts and cushy conference junkets you are missing out on memorable, and even life-changing experiences working in rural, remote or indigenous communities.
Re-skill: When did you last treat a patient from first presentation to discharge, or delivered a baby into the world? Have your ER and minor op skills atrophied in your urban practice? Locum work reconnects you with the front-line medical skills you used to enjoy as a younger doctor.
Learn self-reliance: Without your usual support and referral networks you will have to be more resourceful and adaptable. Relying on your clinical instincts more can be very affirming and confidence building.
Network: Locum work allows you to interface with colleagues far from home and offers a great opportunity to pick up some new contacts, skills and knowledge from outside of your bubble.
Share: If you have special clinical skills or knowledge, you can bring these to regional areas that might not otherwise have access to such expert training or advice. Teaching will allow you to leave a greater legacy than just the hours you put in.
Contribute: Remember - the reason that this hospital or practice hires you as a locum is because they have a desperate need. You are providing an invaluable service to them and the community they serve and that is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.
Humility: Perhaps you are a "hot-shot" where you come from, respected by colleagues and loved by patients, etc. It can be healthy to leave your ego at home for a while. You may find that the process of earning respect on merit, not reputation is liberating and, indeed humbling.
So what is my point? I guess, dear reader, my motivation for writing this piece is two-fold:
Firstly, I have met some locums (not many) who are purely motivated by the money and I observe that they are often cynical, bitter and clinically disengaged (and therefore dangerous). I would caution strongly against doing locums purely for cash. It is unlikely to be a fulfilling experience for you.
Secondly, I have worked alongside some doctors (not many) who resent locums based on the assumption that money is all that drives them (and, ironically that they are making more of it). If you are inclined to think this way I implore you to consider the fact that there may be other motives moving the colleague beside you.
If you are still unconvinced... send them home and you can cover their shifts and on-call.
Written by Dr John Bethell, Director of Wavelength International
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