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Locums – a much needed part of our Healthcare Community.

by Derek Del Simone on January 3, 2014
View Derek's LinkedIn profile here

It’s a busy day, the permanent team of healthcare professionals are stressed out, there is a massive patient load, and there are colleagues away on annual or sick leave, it’s going to be a manic day, do the administration team start cancelling appointments or procedures? And then the Locum strides through the door, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, and the day isn’t looking too bad after all.


Every healthcare profession whether you are a Radiologist, Radiographer, Physician, General Practitioner or Ophthalmologist (just to name a few), have all experienced this.


As demand for Healthcare professionals continues to outstrip supply, locums are the perfect solution to rectify issues with shortage in staffing numbers. There are many employers utilising locums as a way to handle urgent staffing needs; due to increase patient loads, annual, sick, or long service leave or to fill a vacant permanent position while they spend time recruiting suitable candidates. Then there are many organisations that permanently rely on a regular pool of temporary physicians and other medical and allied health professionals because they struggle to find healthcare professionals to commit to a permanent position.


It’s interesting hearing some of the grumblings that always occur within the permanent work force, “Why are they making more money than we do?” “Why do they get to leave early, and not attend committee or staffing meetings?” “Are they eating into our budget for research or new equipment?” These concerns also go beyond the cost factor and can include quality, with many claiming locums are less likely to pay attention, patient satisfaction, communication and quality measures, than that a permanent member of staff, who has built a long term career in the facility and in the community.


Just as there are many types of employers utilising locums there are many types of locums. There are healthcare professionals who enjoy the flexibility and variety that working as a locum offers them. There are specialists who locum, based on the lure of easy money. While there are then the permanent employed healthcare professionals who spend their off-hours working as a locum for other facilities to earn extra money or develop their skills further. Not to forget the new generation a group of recently qualified healthcare professionals, fresh out of training who like the idea of trying out different facilities, practices or different parts of the country without committing to any one organisation or community.


Viewing locums in a negative way is an unhealthy view point; locums are a necessary and even beneficial part of any healthcare profession. Having a pool of temporary healthcare professionals whether they are a Sonographer, Nurse, GP, or an Emergency Doctor, who are willing to spend weeks or months in hard-to-staff facilities and remote areas, has helped provide services and medicines to the community. Without this pool, it would be much tougher to staff start-up facilities, rural and remote facilities, or to quickly add new service lines to existing facilities.


At the end of the day it really boils down to a personal choice. Some professionals enjoy the certainty that permanent employment brings; regular holidays, steady pay cheque, paid sick leave, regular contributions to a retirement fund. While others enjoy being a locum earning “a significant income” with a maximum amount of independence and flexibility, but then they also miss out on a lot of the benefits a permanent employee would enjoy.

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