The right fit for family life
Locum optometrist, Andrea Mentlikowski, discusses how she has grown with locuming from her early 20s into motherhood
22 February 2020
The night before: The day before I am due to locum, I will check where I am booked and, in particular, if I haven’t been there before, I will work out my route to travel there and how long it will take. I use an app called CityMapper that I find very useful. My equipment bag is always packed and placed by the door ready to go.
Previous roles: Full-time employed optometrist, practice manager and locum between the UK and Australia
I shower and get breakfast for myself and my daughter – half of my morning will be spent getting her ready. I drop her at school and then I make my way to work.
9.30am/10am: If I am practising somewhere that I haven’t worked before, I like to get there at least 15 minutes early to allow time to familiarise myself with any of the equipment.
Sometimes the room may also need a clean and tidy; I make sure that I have a clear desk before I start. I also like to briefly chat with the staff and I try to learn their names. Finally, I will look at the diary, see when my lunchtime is and confirm my finish time. Then I will begin testing.
The first thing I do is turn on my phone and check for any updates on the TfL website, just in case there are delays and I need to work out another route to work
12pm: If a patient requires further investigations, I will approach a staff member and perform a detailed handover, introducing the patient and explaining what they require. If a patient needs to be referred, I try to do it in the room on the spot so the patient gets what they require straightaway. Even for non-urgent referrals, I have previously found that waiting until the end of the day to write the referral means that I have to read my notes again and refresh my memory, which takes longer in the end.
1pm: I think it’s important after being stuck in a windowless room all day, to go outside, see daylight and get some fresh air during my lunch break. I usually go out, get a bite to eat somewhere and go for a walk. Generally, if there is anything that I need to chase up before the end of the day, such as extra testing on a patient, I try to do this just before the end of my lunch break so that it minimises the tasks I need to complete at the end of the day.
I think it’s important having been stuck in a windowless room to go out and see daylight and get some fresh air during my lunch break
5pm: I always have a notepad with me when testing, to list patients requiring extra testing or referrals. If there is something that needs to be actioned for a patient that I cannot follow-up myself, I will fill in a performer referral form and share it with the most appropriate person in the practice before I leave. This helps to ensure that patients are followed up even if I’m not returning to the practice.
Ad hoc: Around once a month I do my invoices. However, sometimes, if I finish a day’s work at a practice and I think that I am unlikely to be there again for a while, I may do the invoice at the end of the day. I don’t have a set day for this task, but I keep on top of it and allocate time as and when appropriate. In my experience, I have found it really important to keep track of payments and expenses so that it doesn’t become excruciatingly time consuming at the end of the tax year.
When did you become a locum and why?
Locuming has suited me in different ways throughout my career.
I became a locum initially when I moved from Australia to the UK for the first time. I wanted to travel and explore Europe, and locuming allowed me the flexibility to do so. On returning to the UK a second time, this time as a family with a young child, I chose to locum so as to have control over my start and finish times, as well as not having to work weekends and school holidays. Generally, I find it a more family-friendly option.
It also means that I can indulge in some more creative side projects and hobbies, which provides a nice change from my very science-based occupation. I have been involved in theatre production, as well as costume and set design. These days I do the occasional acting project and some voicework.
What do you most like about locuming?
The flexibility. I need to be organised when booking work but if I know, for example, that my daughter has a concert at school, with enough notice I can block that day out in my diary and not book work. It enables me to be more involved in her life.
I am also able to negotiate when I start and finish my working day to allow me to drop my daughter off at school, while my husband picks her up. From 9am onwards I am free to travel to work using public transport for a journey of up to an hour.
What do you least like about locuming?
When I initially began locuming, my work schedule was quite hectic, and for financial reasons I found myself yes to everything, even when it didn’t suit me. That was only the case for around six months to a year when I first began locuming. Since then I have had a good amount of work from a variety of practices.
What is the one thing you know about locuming now that you wish you knew before you begun?
Don’t underestimate the power you have to find your own work. It seems easy to rely on agencies, but I have found the most rewarding practices that I work in to be those that I have walked into, introduced myself and left a business card with.
- As told to Emily McCormick.