Life as a locum

Packing for every eventuality

Locum optometrist, Shamina Asif, shares insight into what her average day in the life of a locum looks like and how planning for every eventuality begins the night before

Shamina Asif

9pm: My typical day begins the night before when I research how far away the practice I will be working at is and how long it will take me to get there. This is so I know what time I need to get up in the morning and I can set my alarm accordingly before I get to bed.

7am: I get up, shower, get ready and have breakfast before I leave. I take a packed lunch in case I am running behind and haven’t got time to go and get something to eat at lunch. I have my own equipment that I carry with me when I locum, not just my retinoscope, but things like fluorescein strips, tropicamide 1% and phenylephrine 2.5% in case the practice that I am in has run out. I have experienced this in the past and it can happen to any practice.

8.40am: I always arrive at a practice that I have not locumed at before early so I can find out who the staff are and introduce myself. The practice manager will usually show me to the testing room and talk me through the equipment; if not, I ask. If there is a piece of equipment that I want to try before my first patient, a member of staff will usually volunteer to sit for me so that I can check I am using it correctly. So far in practices I have locumed at, the staff are really supportive and will not hesitate to help. I also like to check what is and isn’t done at pre-screening and have a look around the pre-screening area so I am aware what equipment they are using and what the field machine is like, for example.

At a new optical practice, I like to arrive, not on time, but around 10 minutes early so I can settle in, turn the computer on, log in and set up


I ask for a list of the patients that I am scheduled to see that day and will usually be given a printed list. I keep a track of patients on the list to make sure that I am running to time. At this point I also check what pathways the practice runs and what enhanced services they are accredited for. Knowing this information means that if a patient comes in with a minor eye condition, for example, I can treat or refer them accordingly.

I am all set and ready for my first patient to come in. Once my clinic begins, I start testing.

5.30pm: As the end of the day nears, I will review any patients who I have seen that day if I need to. For example, if someone needed repeat fields, I will have written their name down and at this point I will look back for the results to make sure that it was done and to make sure a referral was sent off if needed. I will do this just before I leave for the day and if that means I stay a little longer, I do.

You do have to budget time to do this admin in order to stay on top of it


I have a folder where I keep any petrol, parking and food receipts so that I can file them when I get home. In addition, I actively keep a log of any work that needs doing on my car as it is my mode transport to and from work. I have found it important to keep on top of this paperwork and not leave it until the last minute as this is when things can get lost and go unclaimed for.

In the evening, the process starts from the beginning again when I look at where I am going tomorrow.

  • As told to Emily McCormick.