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Life as a locum

The right fit for family life

Locum optometrist, Andrea Mentlikowski, discusses how she has grown with locuming from her early 20s into motherhood

Andrea Mentlikowski

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.

7am: My alarm normally goes off around 7am. The first thing I do is turn on my phone and check for any updates on the TfL website in case there are delays and I need to work out another route to work. I also check the weather so that I know what to wear.

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.

  • As told to Emily McCormick.