A stepping stone to specialisation: how locuming can shape your medical journey
For many doctors, the path to specialisation is a journey filled with diverse experiences and opportunities for growth. Locuming, or taking on temporary medical positions, is increasingly recognised as a valuable stepping stone in this journey. It offers a unique platform for you to gain varied clinical experiences, develop skills, and explore different specialties before settling into a specific area of expertise.
The diverse world of locuming:
Locuming allows you to work in various settings, from urban hospitals to rural clinics, each providing unique challenges and learning opportunities. This exposure is invaluable for those still deciding on their specialisation, offering a real-world view of different medical practices and patient demographics.
“Through locuming, I’ve had a lot more experience in these smaller town hospitals, perhaps seeing sicker patients than I would in the bigger hospitals. You get a lot more exposure to things, so it has definitely helped me decide what I want to do." Dr Kathryn McMonagle
Unlike permanent positions, locum work is flexible. You can take short-term positions in different specialties without the long-term commitment of a residency or fellowship. This flexibility enables you to “test the waters” in various fields, helping you understand where your true passion and skills lie.
Networking and mentorship opportunities:
Locuming naturally leads to extensive networking, as you work with various health professionals and specialists. These connections can provide insights into different specialties, offering guidance and mentorship opportunities that could influence your career trajectory.
Locuming also exposes you to a wider range of mentors and medical professionals than you might get at the one hospital. Each hospital or clinic will have its own set of specialists with unique skills and knowledge. Learning from this broad spectrum of mentors can provide invaluable insights and guidance, aiding you in making a more informed choice about specialisation.
Reflection and personal growth:
Locum jobs can help you build a diverse skill set. Exposure to different medical conditions, treatments, and patient care strategies across various disciplines enhances your overall medical expertise. This well-rounded experience can be helpful when choosing a specialty, as it provides a clearer understanding of where one’s skills can be best utilised.
"It enriches my lifestyle because I enjoy travelling and seeing new places, and I also think it is good for my work as a doctor to be able to work in different environments and new hospitals as it improves my medical abilities." Dr Huw John
The nature of locum work, with its inherent breaks between contracts, offers time for reflection. You can use these periods to assess your experiences, consider your career goals, and decide which specialty aligns best with your personal and professional aspirations.
Gaining leadership skills
Locum positions often place you in diverse and unfamiliar environments. Adapting to these new settings requires resilience and flexibility, qualities imperative for effective leadership. You learn to quickly understand new systems, work cultures, and patient demographics, enhancing your adaptability and problem-solving skills – key components of leadership.
Locum doctors frequently encounter a wide range of clinical scenarios on the road, some of which may be outside their immediate area of expertise. This requires them to take initiative, make informed decisions, and think on their feet. Such experiences can build confidence in your decision-making abilities, an important attribute of leadership.
"As a team leader, you need to juggle a patient load of your own along with being to advise junior staff to treat their patients effectively." Dr Joanna Manton
Working as a locum also involves collaborating with various healthcare teams. This interaction improves interpersonal and communication skills, as doctors must effectively convey information and work harmoniously with different staff members. These skills are vital for leaders who need to manage teams, resolve conflicts, and drive collective goals.
Financial stability while deciding:
Locum work often offers competitive pay, allowing you financial stability while you explore different specialties. This financial buffer can reduce the pressure to rush into a specialisation for economic reasons, affording you the luxury of choice based on preference and aptitude.
"It has enriched my lifestyle by enabling me to explore more options because I am more flexible with my finances." Dr Tim Tran
If you're considering specialisation, locuming can act as a trial period to experience a particular field without long-term commitment. It’s an opportunity to gauge your interest and aptitude for a specialty before undertaking the extensive training required for specialisation. It offers diverse clinical experiences, fosters skill development, and provides networking opportunities, all while allowing flexibility and work-life balance.