Changing from a static position of employment to a locum role is quite the move.
Many optometrists have found it pays dividends- but what is it that prevents others from making the switch, even when they’re unhappy or burnt-out in their permanent role? It can be an intimidating process, but not all the hearsay making the rounds about working as a locum optom is true. Let’s take a look at some of the more common myths that are more fiction than fact.
“LOCUM WORK IS POORLY PAID”
Remaining in a static, permanent position of course has its perks- primarily related to contractual details such as pension, sick-pay and annual leave. But in purely financial terms, locum work is almost certainly the more lucrative choice- especially if one has the ability to manage their finances effectively to make up for the lack of the aforementioned benefits. Whilst it is true that rates do vary- and indeed are affected by a multitude of factors, Team Locum has observed a steady improvement since establishing our Optometry division in 2012.
If working the same hours as a full-time optometrist in a typical position in the same geographic area, it is fair to say that a locum has the potential to earn significantly higher amounts over the same period. This isn’t entirely surprising- considering that locums are often needed to cover unexpected staffing losses, and therefore are of high value to the client. This leads to stores offering high rates in order to guarantee that they can cover their absence, and not lose out on a clinic. It is a simple case of supply and demand- and there is certainly no shortage of work! With some negotiating from the agency, locums may even be able to secure higher rates than advertised in circumstances where the shift is at short-notice or requires less than desirable hours worked. But it is mutually beneficial for both stores and locums to have a reasonable expectation of the rate they can both expect from a typical day’s work, and fortunately this is currently at a more-than-ample average of £275 on a weekday for Team Locum’s optometrists.
“I COULDN’T WORK AS A LOCUM IN ADDITION TO HOLDING MY REGULAR JOB”
At Team Locum we make it one of our absolute to priorities to keep our locum’s calendars updated. This involves regular communication with all our locums, and our website/app even allows them to update their availability on the move! As a result, we gain a deep understanding of the needs of those locums we regularly converse with, and they all differ greatly.
Some locums seek full-time hours, and some pick up work only when time allows- often around family commitments, other pursuits or in between shifts at their full-time position. There is no obligation to pick up work regularly once signed up to an agency, and often a locum registered with ourselves may only pick up a shift or two a month to supplement the income they receive from their permanent role. This is the beauty of locum work- it is truly flexible, and does not incur the stresses of working as an independent freelancer. Any agency worth registering with will want to discuss with a locum the nature of their availability and expectations for work going forward, and will use this information in order to present the locum with the most appropriate opportunities. Optometrists are in high demand, and even a locum only available for one shift a month is valuable to an agency for the benefit they can give a store in need.
“IT’S ALL EMERGENCY WORK – LAST MINUTE CALLS, ETC.”
As the year progresses, and seasons bring with them their own implications for both staff and customer behaviour, we often find ourselves booking shifts with locums as far as 6 months ahead- particularly when stay-away blocks are involved. It is not only sickness that may lead to a store calling in for a locum- often staff holidays or increased seasonal demand will mean it is more cost-effective to take on a temporary locum than to employ another full-time member of staff. Consequently, if a locum makes their availability known to an agency there is no reason they should not be able to fill their diary in good time, and do-away with the anxieties related to future work. Conversely, due to the emergency on-call service Team Locum operates, we do receive a high number of last-minute requests. But this is beneficial to all involved- such shifts usually come with a higher rate attached, and some locums prefer to leave their calendars flexible with this in mind. Regardless, these late bookings do not come at the detriment of longer-term work, and at Team locum we find that the split is even- it all depends on when the locum is actively seeking work.
“LOCUM WORK IS TOO UNPREDICTABLE, AND I’LL HAVE TO WORK FOR COMPANIES I DON’T LIKE IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN BOOKINGS”
One of the benefits of locum work, especially for newly qualified optometrists, is that it offers the opportunity for an optom to gain experience in a diverse range of stores- all adding to their own portfolio and building their technical and industry knowledge. But Team Locum realises that not all locums actively want to work in every branch seeking cover- some may have had negative experiences with certain companies and want to avoid working with them in the future.
That is why we seek the locum’s preferences from the outset- asking in the registration process what companies they would like to work for and those they would like to avoid. We recognise that it would be detrimental to both parties to place a locum in a store they do not feel comfortable in. The nature of our agency is a communicative one, and we make efforts to gain feedback from both locums and clients regarding the experiences of both. This helps us ensure we avoid any bookings that would be unsuitable or inappropriate, as the happiness and satisfaction of both our locums and clients is of absolute importance to us.
“IT’S TOO MUCH HASSLE TO REGISTER WITH AN AGENCY”
We know that registering for anything is generally something endured rather than enjoyed- and that’s why Team Locum have streamlined their sign-up process to make it as painless as possible. Of course, one has to live by the law, and there are necessary documents and check that must be carried out. That’s why we recommend all optometrists have their most important documents on file at all times- including your indemnity insurance certificate, passport and AOP registration letter. With the right documents at hand, the registration process takes an average of 20 minutes- after which our administrative team will take over and start processing the application. Having contactable and reliable references is hugely important, as this speeds up the process hugely. Our registration process is as efficient as it can be whilst obtaining all the necessary and correct information- and ultimately takes less than a lunch-break to complete! 20 minutes form-filling in order for access to work and competitive rates nationwide is a pretty good trade if we may say so! For guidance through our registration process, check out this handy step-by-step video guide
As we can see, the benefits of working as a locum optometrist greatly outweigh the detriments- and the flexibility it affords means there’s more than likely a workaround for any of the latter!