Welcome to our final chapter in our trilogy of posts focusing on newly-qualified pharmacists undertaking locum work! If you’ve yet to do so, check out part 1 and part 2.
You’re elated. You feel weightless. You’ve seen it all and you’re stronger for it. Yes- you’ve finally completed all the paperwork involved in becoming a locum. But before you storm the store-front, let’s take a cool few minutes and look at some ways in which new locums can make the most of their newly-registered status. Here’s our advice for both making a great impression, and for getting into healthy habits.
It’s quite simple- if the agency can’t contact you, they can’t get you into work! When a new pharmacist completes their registration with Team Locum, the first thing we endeavor to do is to put their bookings consultant in contact for an informal but informative chat. That way they can establish a working relationship and start looking to find the ideal shifts for the locum in question.
Hundreds of locums register with us each year, and we offer work to each and every one. It’s those who are receptive to our communicative efforts who ultimately obtain the most work. That’s why it’s crucial to remain reachable in those first days of registration- it truly pays to make a great first impression with both the agency you choose and the stores you work in.
A point to note is that any reputable agency will have plenty of work on offer, and will therefore be sending out many notifications each day. At Team Locum we send out hundreds of shifts every morning and afternoon- primarily via e-mail and text. It is a fantastic idea to have both a separate e-mail account for locum-related matters and possibly a different phone also, simply for easy access to work-centric information!.
Know your calendar
Beyond all doubt, the most helpful and beneficial information a registered locum can provide their agency is when they are available to work. It’s this we use to match our locums up with the available shifts. It’s this we use when selling a locum’s talents to a particular store. It’s this we use in our emergency on-call hours to get locums into those last-minute, high-rate bookings. If that isn’t clear enough- updating your availability is vital to obtaining the work you want. Nothing will endear you to an agency more than presenting them with a clear picture of your working calendar and sticking to it, or at least updating us when changes occur (this does not equate to leaving your calendar blank, which usually indicates neglect rather than organisation). Often it is these locums- the ones who show a vested interested in picking up work- that will come forward for the shifts before anyone else, and that build a reputation for reliability and excellence with both the agency and the stores. Locums registered with ourselves can keep their calendar updated on the go via the website/app, and our bookings consultants make weekly contact to ensure the availability of their locums is up-to-date
On the flip-side, nothing stifles a locum’s progression quicker than disorganisation in their working calendar. Cancelling shifts is unavoidable at times- we understand that sickness, personal crisis, family issues and logistical disasters happen. More often than not we can recover cancellations if they are made in good time, and with good reason. But as a healthcare professional, a locum pharmacist should take very seriously their commitment to work a shift, and cancelling due to calendar oversights such as double-bookings or clashes with personal life that could have been avoided are not excusable- they place both the store and the agency in a position that could have been avoided. Being a ‘Responsible Pharmacist’ also encompasses reliability in your profession and dealings with colleagues!
Be flexible in your travelling arrangements
We work with clients all over the country- from top-to-bottom and side-to-side- and consequently almost all of our locums find work available in fairly close proximity to them. But shifts get snapped up quickly- especially in more densely populated areas, and the more a locum limits their willingness to travel, the more competition they will be facing for work locally. It is hugely beneficial to consider working slightly further from home than you might deem ideal-it simply increases your options.
Often travel expenses may be included in a rate- especially for stores that are in harder-to-reach areas. Team Locum works with clients to provide a variety of shift-types, and we regularly place locums into ‘stay-away’ blocks that cover both travel, accommodation, and sometimes even allow a daily allowance for food. These can be a great way for locums to earn a high amount over a short, intensive period, but often they do require a reasonable amount of travelling. Some areas of the UK are ‘hotspots’ for locum work, such as the South Coast, Yorkshire and the West Midlands, so it may be worth making your interest in these particularly work-heavy areas known. Most locums own and drive their own transport to bookings, but in some cases public transport may be more appropriate.
Be reasonable in your negotiations
Locum work can be extremely lucrative- especially for well-established pharmacists that know where and when the highest-paying shifts are up for grabs. But it’s unlikely that these market-savvy locums were privy to these golden bookings from the get-go, and to enter the world of locum work with an unreasonable expectation of the rates you might earn may hinder your progress. Our bookings team take pride in their communicative skills and client relationships, and will always try their hardest to obtain the best rates possible for their locums. In your early days it will be greatly beneficial to leave negotiations up to our highly trained consultants, and focus your energy on leaving the best possible impression with every store you work with. We would never expect a pharmacist to go to work for an unreasonably low rate, and whenever possible we will push for the highest rate we can obtain for you, within reason. The more impressive your work is, and the more positive relationships you build with multiple stores and clients, the more likely you will be to earn the higher rates!
So with all this in mind, ask yourself the following questions when preparing to begin on your locum journey-
- Have you provided the agency with ALL your professional accreditation, and taken steps to acquire the commonly demanded qualifications?
- Have you ensured that the locum agency is aware of your exact availability?
- Are you easy to contact, or quick to respond to ALL messages you can’t answer immediately?
- Is your travel mileage radius realistic for your area?
- Are your payment expectations in line with the rates being offered?
If your answers for all the above are positive, then you’re in a great position to be maximising your potential as a self-employed pharmacist, and will undoubtedly flourish!
This is an enormously exciting time of the year for pharmacy, with so much new talent and potential entering the industry! If you’re considering entering locum work then we would love to hear from you, and we’re always available for a chat Monday to Friday, 9-5. Alternatively, you can reach us via e-mail or social media with any queries you have- we’re happy to help! And even if locum life isn’t on your radar, good luck on embarking on your new career as a pharmacist, and thank you for choosing to contribute to such a crucial service. You’re the real MVP’s!