Life as a locum

“Be as open to difference and change as you can”

Hannah Colclough, locum for multiples and Hakim Group independent practices in Merseyside and Cheshire, on how locuming has given her days a clear sense of purpose

The Ferry across the Mersey and the Liverpool Skyline bathed in the last rays of the setting sun
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Before I became a locum, I was working...

At a multiple for two years, which is where I had also completed my pre-reg. My pre-reg lasted for two years, because of COVID-19, and I stayed there afterwards.

When I started as a locum, I wish I had known…

Not to panic, and not to stress. It seems like a big, scary change, and it is a big change, getting used to everything. But once you get into it, it works itself out. You get used to different equipment, and meeting new people every day is really nice.

Also, be prepped from the start. I started my prep a couple of months before, but I could have started even earlier, getting on the apps and getting registered.

What took the longest wasn’t actually getting the shifts, it was places allowing me to register with them. So, make sure you’ve got your clinical references early, and go from there.

I realised this…

Pretty much as soon as I started looking at locum booking apps. Where I worked, we had a lot of locums coming in and they would give me a lot of advice, which was handy.

I made the decision to become a locum because...

My personal circumstances changed, and I moved location. It was so I could have the flexibility of working when I wanted to. Also, a Monday to Friday role was a lot nicer for me than doing weekend work. The continuing professional development aspect, too. I just wanted to try something new.

On my first day of locuming...

I was so nervous. With Hakim Group practices, it was nice and easy to settle into. After I had done the first few tests, I was like, ‘Oh, it is just my job. I’ve just been put in a different practice for a day.’

My biggest locum challenge is…

Being open to new ideas and new ways of working. Being a resident for two years, where I was almost in charge because there was no one else working with me at times, I could say, ‘this needs doing and that needs doing.’ As a locum, you can’t always go in and say, ‘why is this not being done?’ You have to learn to communicate in better ways, and learn to adapt to things a lot better. That was probably one of my challenges, adapting to new ways of working.

As a locum, I’ve adapted my days by…

Being a lot more on it with my notes, and not leaving them and referrals to the end of the day. I like to go out on my lunch break, but sometimes now, I’ll do paperwork during my lunch to make sure it’s done before I leave, especially if I know I’m not going back.

Practices can make life easier for locums by…

At a previous role in a multiple, I created a locum pack, with information on referrals and how to use the equipment. On some locum days, you’ll find you’re in practice by yourself, and a lot of practice managers don’t necessarily know how the equipment works.

Sometimes I’ve had to go back to practice managers and say, ‘this referral has been sent this way.’ They’ve come back and said, ‘actually, that is right.’ It’s about getting used to adapting to different ways of working with different people, essentially.

My favourite thing about being a locum is…

You go in and you feel like you have purpose. You know that you’re there just for optometry, for that day. When I was a resident, I was doing all the other jobs as well. Now I can spend all my time with the patients. You’re back to your clinical basics, and knowing that you’re there for a purpose, because that is your job – you’re employed as the optometrist for the day.

You’re back to your clinical basics, and knowing that you’re there for a purpose, because that is your job – you’re employed as the optometrist for the day


My advice for new locums is...

Be prepared, and stay on top of things. I had a three-month notice period, so almost from day dot, I was sorting out the business and the bank accounts, and making sure I had everything in place so that I could start work again, as soon as I finished at my previous role. If you’re not in the headspace to sort that out while you’re at work, you might be pushed back a month, so then you have a month without income.

The other thing is just speaking to other locums. If you know any locums or any optometrists who have locumed, they tend to be the best people to offer advice, because they’re already in the job. Speak to people and be as open to difference and change as you can.

My last word on locuming is...

The main thing is not to get stressed if shifts get cancelled, because you’ll always find shifts.

Also, do your research on the practices that you’re going into. With the clinical equipment, you tend to use everything you used at university, so it’s just reapplying that knowledge. Research the parking before you go to places, or the area if you don’t know it. Knowing the area and being on top of things, your days tend to be a lot easier. They feel like they flow a lot better, because you’re able to just go in do your job. You’re not stressed.

Lead image: The Liverpool skyline in Merseyside, where Hannah Colclough works as a locum optometrist