The healing heroes we rarely hear from

How Locum Doctors save the day - and why Australia needs them more than ever

Australia's healthcare system thrives on a hidden army of travellers – locum doctors. These unsung heroes plug critical gaps in hospitals and clinics, stepping in at the last minute to keep the wheels of vital medical services turning, often in regional and remote areas where medical staffing is scarce. And when the pressure's on, a good medical recruitment agency is like a secret weapon, ensuring the right doctor lands in the right place at the right time. 

Crisis Rates & Rural Realities  

It’s nothing new - Australia has a doctor shortage, and it's hitting rural communities the hardest. Max Drakeley, a seasoned Recruitment Consultant and GP Recruitment Team Leader at Wave puts it bluntly: "The vast majority of GP locum vacancies we help fill are at overstretched regional and rural health services." It's a perfect storm – doctors wanting city lights, and rural health teams drowning under the weight of finding their staff. Locum GP Recruitment Consultant Amy Beddall is well-versed in helping to alleviate some of the administrative work in recruiting doctors for rural clinics. “I recently met with a practice principal of a regional clinic who hasn't had a Christmas off in 20 years,” she recalls. “If I can help alleviate some of that burden, I will!” Former President of the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland, Dr Matt Masel, told the ABC in 2022 about the continued need for locum doctors: "Without them, I couldn't plan to attend my child's graduation or other family events or just have a break when I really need a break," Dr Masel said. "So, locums are really important." Alongside planned locum contracts are unplanned locum shifts that often need to be filled last minute. This is where medical recruiters can provide critical support. 

Enter the Recruiter  

Wavelength consultants pride themselves on being trusted and reliable advisors for both healthcare organisations and doctors, taking recruitment pressure off overworked workforce managers. From headhunting, credentialling, and negotiation to logistics and paperwork, their job is to turn chaos into seamless placements. It's like having a medical staffing superhero on speed dial, ensuring critical gaps are filled before anyone even notices. Some of our most long-standing clients are those whom we support with placing locums in rural clinics. Cory Robertson, Recruitment Consultant for locum GP/ED/Proceduralists shares a recent example. “A hospital sent an urgent request at 5:54 am for two blocks, the first starting in two days. By 10 am that day, I had secured a doctor who could fill both blocks and had all paperwork completed,” she explains. “The doctor is now supporting the hospital on a regular basis.” Feedback for Wave’s locum services shows that our clients appreciate the support too. Recently, an NT Clinic Director of Medical Services said: “Great service, friendly, supportive, go the extra mile.”  

The All-Important Human Touch 

"Recruiting doctors is about relationships," explains Charlie Hellmundt, Locum GP Recruitment Consultant. "Treating them as individuals, understanding their needs, and finding the perfect fit, no matter the length of the role." No algorithm can replicate that crucial human touch, or the understanding of the needs of both healthcare clinics and doctors, which become more important in remote and very remote roles. Building relationships takes time and patience – and databases require more health checks than medical patients – resources that workforce managers simply don’t have. Building a relationship with a recruitment consultant benefits locum doctors, too. Amy shares: “One of the GPs who has worked with me said, by working with an agency he was able to turn up, get to know the staff he was working with, and do what he’s best at - be a doctor. We take care of the admin and the details.” 

 “[Wavelength is] an agency who cares,” said Dr Mergard, GP and Remote & Rural Medicine Specialist. “Staff who follow you up and see how you're going. If there has ever been an issue with a flight - someone gets things sorted.”  

Reward Beyond the Remuneration

For Wavelength medical recruiters, the motivation goes beyond commission. "Hearing that a locum we placed saved a life," Max says, "that's more rewarding than any financial incentive." These are the unsung heroes of Australian healthcare, ensuring rural communities aren't left in the medical dark. For doctors too, there are myriad reasons to locum aside from a pay cheque. GP Dr Amin Sadruddin finds satisfaction in knowing he’s able to make a positive impact in remote Indigenous health clinics. “In the city, I feel surplus to requirements,” Dr Sadruddin explains. “But in these communities, my services are in high demand. I’m often the difference between a medical service staying open or being shut down. It’s a humbling experience.” 

Respecting the Demand, Rewarding the Skill

Let's be clear – locum work is no walk in the park. Think remote towns, unfamiliar settings, and high-pressure situations. As has been reported widely, including last year by NSW Parliament in the Health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional and remote New South Wales report, “There is a critical shortage of health professionals across rural, regional and remote communities resulting in staffing deficiencies in hospitals and health services.” Max emphasises, "The responsibility of locum doctors cannot be underestimated." These doctors deserve fair compensation and are required to be flexible, agile, and utilise a wide variety of both clinical knowledge and problem-solving skills. Amy agrees. “In a healthcare system facing an imminent GP shortage, GP locum work in Australia represents a crucial part of this solution,” she says. “By stepping in to fill staffing gaps, locum doctors play a vital role in ensuring that Australians continue to receive the healthcare they need and deserve.” 

In Australia, locum doctors are the quiet heroes in the wings – at the ready to take on some of the most demanding placements in far-off locations. And medical recruitment agencies are the ones who help make their impact possible. They're the unseen gears keeping the rural medical wheels turning, and in a nation facing an increasing doctor shortage, we need them more than ever. 

Interested in learning more about how our medical recruitment specialists can help your healthcare organisation thrive? Contact us today and discover the power of a great locum placement. 

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