During internship and residency you start to think about the future. What specialty do you want to do? What job will you apply for? Maybe you’re thinking about doing further study.

Or, maybe you want to do a career swerve.

One option under the umbrella of career swerve is becoming a locum doctor.

Is being a locum for you?

If you want:

  • To figure out your options
  • Flexibility
  • Free time
  • Explore new things
  • Travel

If you’re prepared for:

  • Uncertainty
  • Taking a break from career acceleration
  • Possible judgmental comments
  • Being more careful with finances
Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

Is it okay to take a ‘year off’

People always ask, is it okay to take a year off? It can be daunting in med to get off the conveyor belt to consultancy.

You’re surrounded by very driven people, and often people who are focused on a goal.

Sometimes you can feel a bit left behind if you don’t really know where to focus your energies yet. Maybe you might be unsure if medicine is even for you.

So of course the question about whether you can even afford a year out of traditional medicine is super common.

It’s okay – Most of the time

Certain specialties (the more competitive ones) are less forgiving of time away. So if your heart is set on surgery or something similar, you may need to reconsider doing a locum year before starting training. It’s wise to speak to a trainee in that field to see how they view locum years.

Otherwise, doing a locum year or two will not cause any harm to your career. Maybe it will spark a new interest or whole other career choice for yourself.

If you’re certain about what specialty you want to do, try to keep in contact with people in that field. You could also become involved in research, or do further study. This can all prove to future employers or interviewers that you’re interested.

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Steps to becoming a locum

Now that we’ve established that you want to give being a locum a go, let’s look at how to do it.

  1. Get general registration
  2. For better options, try complete residency/pgy2/HMO2 (not essential)
  3. Speak to people who have done it before
  4. Ask around to find what agency is best for you
  5. Create a LinkedIn – networking is key!
  6. Gather your referees – and let them know your plans
  7. Sign up to a few medical recruitment agencies (keep your options open)
  8. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork (the agencies will help you)
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want AND don’t be afraid to say no (you’re in demand, and it’s important to know when to turn things down)

Hope this has helped and good luck! I’ve not regretted taking this year ‘off’ for one moment.