Given that locum work bypasses the intricacies of permanent recruitment and offers an uncomplicated route into active service, it’s fair to assume that most optometrists have at some stage considered it. But equally, given that the great majority of optoms do end up in static employment, it’s also fair to assume that most subsequently talk themselves out of becoming locums.
Whilst it would be wrong to suggest that locuming is right for everyone, there are certain persistent myths that sometimes prevent optometrists who could be highly suited to locum work, from taking that path. In this post, we’re going to be looking at five of the most common ones. So, what are these popular misconceptions? Let’s find out…
“LOCUM WORK IS POORLY PAID”
Pay does vary with locum bookings, and the fluctuations from region to region can be quite noticeable. However, since opening its optometry division in 2012, the well-established UK agency Team Locum has witnessed a clear picture of improvement in daily rates for locum optometrists. Here in 2017, it would be fair to say that on average, a good UK optom, working full time, could expect to earn more as a locum than they could in a typical static role.
With optometrists in such high demand, opticians realise that they’re simply not going to cover their absences unless they pay an attractive rate. And because so many opticians are finding it increasingly difficult to cover for an absent optom, there’s also scope for summertime block bookings in very nice locations, with expenses paid.
Whilst we wouldn’t claim that every rate offered by an optician is the highest we’ve ever seen (in some areas we’d definitely like to see further improvement), we would strongly contest any notion of there being a downward trend. Some of the daily rates currently being offered to locum optoms are well above average, and would not have been contemplated by opticians a few years back. For a great optometrist with a good conversion rate, locum work can really pay.
To clarify for optometrists who’ve never before tried locum work, and are unsure of the pay arrangements as regards the agency… The optometrist receives in full the daily rate offered by the client, and the agency’s booking fee is dealt with as an entirely separate payment. With a professional locum agency, if the day’s booking pays £350, that’s what the locum receives.
“I COULDN’T WORK AS A LOCUM IN ADDITION TO HOLDING MY REGULAR JOB”
Although a locum agency will always hope to attract locums with high levels of availability, it’s not an ideal world. Any good optometrist has high value to a locum agency – even if she or he is only available for the odd day here and there. Quite a number of the optometrists working through Team Locum have very limited availability.
Provided the optometrist keeps the agency informed on when they can and can’t work, limited availability is unlikely to present any problem. As we’ll see shortly, the locum won’t need to keep the agency informed by phone – there’s an easier way. But the headline is that locum optometrists who, for example, just want to work Saturdays (or maybe every other Saturday) should look very seriously at registering with a good locum agency. Good locum agencies are passionate about service. If they can help out one client at a time of need, that client is likely to return in future. So even though it may cost the agency more to register a locum than she or he earns them in booking fees, the invaluable cover that locum provides is recognised by the client, word spreads, and everyone wins.
The only issues that could potentially hinder this kind of income supplement for an optometrist are an employer’s contractual condition, or a limited client base on the locum agency’s side. If you’re an optometrist in two minds, it’s worth talking to a reputable agency to find out what your prospects are. A reputable agency will be totally honest about what they can do for you, and there’s never any cost in registering (or there certainly shouldn’t be), so the only question is whether or not you’re happy to invest a short period of time in your application.
“IT’S ALL EMERGENCY WORK – LAST MINUTE CALLS, ETC.”
Another advantage with optometrists being in high demand, is that optical practices and establishments recognise the need to plan well in advance. Opticians know from experience how difficult it can be to get a locum optometrist at the last minute, and most get in as soon as they possibly can. For example, it’s currently February, and today we’ve been taking a range of locum optom requests for May, June and July. That gives locums a lot of time to structure their timetables.
Naturally, unplanned absences do crop up, and we’d be lying if we said we didn’t get emergency requests for locum optometrists. However, there are locums who like these last minute arrangements and will specifically seek them. It all adds up to a picture of choice. If you’ve denoted yourself as unavailable, or you’re already booked, you’re not going to be asked to cover an emergency.
Team Locum provides the means for its locums to notify their availability to the office via an online calendar. The system is accessible from desktop computers, tablets, and mobile phones. The locum simply updates the calendar at her or his convenience, and the bookings system at the locum agency automatically refreshes the availability data it presents to the agency’s Bookings Team. If a locum is marked as unavailable or already booked, it’ll be plainly apparent to the Bookings Team.
It’s a very familiar picture on Team Locum’s internal systems… Optometrists blocked out as Not Available for most of the week, and then, on the day(s) they’re not otherwise occupied, allocated to bookings, well in advance. There is no question that good optometrists who choose to locum with a professional agency, are putting themselves in total control of their timetables and work-life balance.
“LOCUM WORK IS TOO UNPREDICTABLE AND I’LL HAVE TO WORK FOR COMPANIES I DON’T LIKE IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN BOOKINGS”
The unpredictability associated with locum work is largely down to demand – or the lack of it. When demand for locums is low, there may be days on which the healthcare professional wants to work, but is unable to secure the right booking. But because demand for locum optometrists is high, that unpredictability is reduced right down to a bare minimum.
Optometrists do need to choose the right agency. The wrong one will have a limited client base. But the right one will not only have a very wide range of clients – it will also be able to pro-actively source bookings specifically for a given locum when demand is healthy.
So when it comes to locum preferences, and indeed client preferences, there’s room to accommodate personal choice. In fact, Team Locum has a page in its sign-up process called Preferred Companies. The agency cares where its locums do and don’t want to work, and takes the matter very seriously from square one. That goes for all Team Locum’s locums, incidentally – not just optometrists. It’s as important for clients as it is for locums, that only locums who like a particular business are asked to work there…
“IT’S TOO MUCH HASSLE TO REGISTER WITH AN AGENCY”
We know optometrists are busy, and we understand that completing a lengthy registration process is not something busy people have time for. In order to register an optometrist, all legitimate agencies must satisfy certain legal criteria, but this doesn’t need to be drawn-out or difficult for the registering locum. Whilst Team Locum can’t be flexible when it comes to the law, we definitely can help to get the registration process completed in absolute minimum time.
Our standard online registration process should take around 20 minutes to complete. But that includes the upload of essential documentation, so once that process is complete, our Registrations Team should have everything they need to process the registration. The Bookings Team then immediately pick up the momentum, determine the locum’s availability, and begin sourcing work for the appropriate days.
Of course, we recognise that complications can arise within an online registration, and that not it’s not going to be straightforward for everyone. But we’re here to help speed things up. Just let us know if something feels like it’s taking longer than it should, and we’ll step in.
Whilst the above myths rank among the most common, we wonder if any of our existing locums can add a few of the more obscure ones?