Defining a routine
Locum optometrist, Hassnain Safdar, shares insight into his day in the life experiences as a locum over the last three months
04 November 2019
9pm: My day begins the night before when I plan my journey to the practice that I am working at the following day. This includes where I will be able to park and how long it will take me to get to the practice from my car. I use a navigation app called Waze that keeps you updated on traffic as you are driving and updates you on what time you will get there.
Previous roles: Resident optometrist in multiple and independent settings
Based: East Midlands.
7am: I set two alarms to ensure that I am not late. I get up, have breakfast and get ready for work. Before I leave the house I check to make sure that my equipment, such as my retinoscope and my ophthalmoscope, is fully charged and put them in my bag along with my diary. In terms of the equipment that I take with me, I work on the assumption that the practice has nothing. Therefore, I take all of the equipment that I own with me because that way I feel comfortable that I have everything I need in order to perform to the best of my ability on that day.
7.45am: I set the practice postcode into the navigation app that I use and set off on my drive to work.
I think that introducing yourself to the practice team is key to ensuring that your day runs nice and smoothly
8.45am: I arrive at the practice 15–20 minutes before I am due to start and introduce myself to staff. I think that introducing yourself to the practice team is key to ensuring that your day runs nice and smoothly.
I then go into the testing room and check that everything is working. I also clean down all the equipment before I start because I don’t not know who used the room before me and I want to ensure that everything is nice and clean for myself and the patient.
Once I am set up in the testing room, I will return to reception to speak to staff about local referral criteria and enhanced services, and make sure I find out where the bathroom is and confirm when my lunch break will be.
9am: I am testing.
1pm: I ensure I always take a lunchbreak, which is normally 40 minutes. During my lunch, as well as eating, I will make sure that I take a walk and get some fresh air. I find this really important because as a locum you can get lost in your day and you need that space to refresh mentally so that you are prepared for the afternoon testing
Before I leave the house I check to make sure that my equipment, such as my retinoscope and my ophthalmoscope, is fully charged and put them in my bag along with my diary
5pm: As a locum you need to keep on top of referrals and follow-ups and check if they have been done. Throughout my day I will make a note of the patient ID when necessary, alongside a note of the requested tests. Once the tests have been done and showed to me, I will put a tick by the patient’s name and then I’ll put another tick by their name once I have updated their notes on the outcome. After I have seen my last patient, I will go through my notes and make sure that all patient IDs have two ticks next to them. I have got into a routine of checking further results as and when they are ready during the day so this simply works as a final crosscheck.
9pm: Having arrived home earlier, towards the end of my evening I shall begin my research for the next day once more.
Sundays: As a locum there is a percentage of time that you have to set aside for admin. I tend to set aside an hour or so every Sunday for this. I have an excel spreadsheet that I use to keep track of work and invoicing. This is really important for financial and accountancy purposes so that you can track where you are going and the mileage that you are doing, as well as your invoicing and if payment has been received.
When did you decide to become a locum and why?
I started locuming in June this year. The main reason that I decided to become a locum was because of the flexibility that it would afford me in deciding when, where and how I wanted to work, as well as being able to maintain a work/life balance that I was comfortable with.
I have been qualified for two years now and the one thing that I least enjoyed about being a resident optometrist was the need to plan around the work rota, which could sometimes be restricting. I saw becoming a locum as a way to take complete control of that.
I did a lot of research before I decided to hand in my notice and become a locum and for me I saw it as a path that would enable me to gain experience in a wide scope of practice early in my career. Now I am a locum I can work in different practice settings each day – I really enjoy the variability in practice life that locuming brings.
What advice would you give an optometrist considering becoming a locum?
You are only a good locum if you are organised.
Organisation is really key because you have to plan ahead for any eventuality, not only to your schedule but to what is required in practice day in, day out.
In my first month as a locum, I really struggled to get to grips and find a routine to get all of the information that I would need to ask in each practice before I could start work. For example, every area will have different referral criteria that you will need to be aware of when you are locuming. As a resident optometrist, you are comfortable in your practice environment and know this without having to think about it, but as a locum you have to source that information from colleagues on the day. Therefore, it’s always best to plan your day in advance and have a list of the questions that you need answered for when you arrive.
What do you most like about being a locum?
I like the flexibility of being able work when and where I want and that I am in control of that. Another nice thing about locuming is that you can negotiate your fees and I like that because you are able to value yourself and your skills.
I locum in and around the East Midlands. I set myself a one hour drive radius from my house and while I try to ensure I am not travelling that distance daily, I do find the drive to and from work quite therapeutic.
- As told to Emily McCormick.