“Don’t you have to keep moving around hospitals, travelling miles?”  “Aren’t you expected to keep moving wards within the hospital filling gaps?”  “Doesn’t it look bad on your CV?” “Aren’t you treated badly?”

I am a locum doctor, and I have lost count of the number of times other doctors have asked me these questions.

I have been locuming for the last two and a half years, during which time I have worked in just two hospitals and I have moved less than my colleagues in training. I am seen as ‘additional’ staffing/covering for what was a gap/shortage on the ward and so usually feel appreciated and looked after. I have annual appraisals and can show evidence where I have improved and expanded my skills to continue to advance my CV.

During my foundation years I was working to survive the year, getting through a week of on-call shifts while everything other than work would be put on hold. The following week when I was on the ward, I would be frantically trying to complete my reflections/supervisor meetings and competencies, while catching up on all the life admin that had been neglected for the previous two weeks. Before I knew it, I had completed foundation training and didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I started to question whether I even wanted to continue working in medicine, let alone being ready to choose an area to start specialising in. I took the leap of faith that now more and more doctors are doing, and decided to come out of training to do some locum work, some travelling and reassess my options.

Locuming for the last two and half years has helped me to take a step back. Not only did I have time to do some serious travelling (four months around Central America), but also to take time off to explore other interests. During this time I launched What The Bleep, set up as the first junior doctors website with the mission to support junior doctors and also offer them discounts and bonuses, which has gone on to become the most popular junior doctors website since launching just over a year ago. Locuming has helped me gain more experience in acute medicine and geriatrics, and to realise that I do in fact get a great deal of satisfaction from medicine; from the patient interaction, the acute assessment, investigation and management of patients and seeing them improve after starting on the appropriate treatment for the diagnosis that one made.

I admit locuming isn’t the solution for most doctors. I want to avoid my friends and colleagues who were once so passionate about helping and treating patients, from feeling drained and apathetic as I once was towards their profession.

So what I would say to those of them completing foundation training is, if you know what you want to do, go for it and push forward through training for that career. I envy that you have found the direction with which I have struggled. For those of you who are clouded with confusion or exhaustion consider taking a year or two out of training. Take some time off, locum, go travelling or try out some other career options. It is better to take one or two years to make sure you’re doing the right thing, than to realise in ten years time that you made a mistake.

Mike Gough
Locum doctor and CEO www.whatthebleep.co.uk
Get more advice on locuming from the locum guide.

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