“Demand for locums is huge”
Teesside optometrist, Sam Phillips, explains why preparation is key when starting at new practices as a locum
14 April 2022
When I started as a locum, I wish I had known…How important it is to establish how each store operates, including in terms of equipment and staffing – for example, is there a dispensing optician? Also, the importance of practicalities, such as areas to park close to a new practice.
I also wish I’d known about the availability of work in different sectors of optometry, for example across multiples, independent practices, domiciliary settings, and hospitals.
I realised this when…
The event that made me realise this was…Knowing how to interpret optical coherence tomography, but not knowing how to acquire a scan if the equipment was new to me – something that is particularly likely when the resident optometrist is the only member of staff in the practice who uses it regularly.
It has helped me because…I now prepare by creating crib sheets with information on each practice’s equipment and lens suppliers. I also try to visit the practice before I start working there, to orientate myself and learn how to use unfamiliar equipment.
My biggest locum challenge is…Business admin. That includes diary changes, keeping on top of costs, invoice generation, making sure my spreadsheets are up to date so I can stay on top of everything, and tracking expenses as they happen. Keeping on top of this improves my efficiency when self-assessment time rolls around, and significantly reduces the stress involved.
I now prepare by creating crib sheets with information on each practice’s equipment and lens suppliers
As a locum, I’ve adapted my days by…Being more flexible. When I started as a resident, I liked everything set up my own way, in my own room. But equipment layout for locums often changes on a daily basis, between practices. Being relaxed and willing to change the flow of your routine to accommodate this means being able to prevent potential frustrations.
With new equipment, at first I found myself using trial and error to acquire scans, and in some cases having to contact the resident or owner during clinic times to talk through how to use certain pieces of equipment. Now, I make sure to visit the practice ahead of time and clear this up before the problems present.
Practices can make life easier for locums by…Creating an orientation folder. This could include preferred contact lens manufacturers, referral pathways, handover styles, price lists for drops, charges for appointments, and so on.
Being relaxed and willing to change the flow of your routine to accommodate this means being able to prevent potential frustrations
There is a lot to take in, as every practice is different – it can be difficult to remember the details, especially if you haven’t worked at that particular store before. In my experience, multiples often have this available more readily than independents.
One change I’ve seen whilst working as a locum is…
Demand in my area was never ‘quiet’, but over the past year, and for reasons that we’re all aware of, demand for locums is huge. I’m regularly contacted by practices in areas that are well outside my local area, which is new for me.