Full-Time Locuming on the road with Gamba the Great Dane

Locum doctor life

Faced with travelling alone for extended periods, Dr Dolores del Estal came up with a simple but quirky solution: to travel New Zealand in a campervan with her partner and their beloved Great Dane dog, Gamba.

We talked to Dolores about her locum lifestyle in 2018, but we loved this story so we wanted to share it again.

Why did you decide to locum full-time?

I’ve been locuming for a year and a half. I came from the UK to a job in Whangarei, I’d never been to New Zealand before so it was new for me. I did five years and then resigned as I wasn’t happy with the way on-call worked there. It’s very different to the UK. That left me with two options – to go back to the UK, or to do locum work.

With locuming, I can choose my conditions; to not be on call, to work more in the community and with patients.

I don’t like to leave my family behind, so my dog Gamba and my partner often come with me in our camper van.

What are the ups and downs of locuming?

There’s loads of uncertainty about jobs and when you’ll get them. That’s me because I’ve put my own conditions on what kind of work I’ll do, but it means I sometimes don’t have much luck finding a job. I want to keep up my skills and I do miss having a routine.

But the travelling is nice. And there’s flexibility, if you want to have a month off, you have a month off. You’re not depending on others’ schedules. I’ve also enjoyed gaining experience in other places, with other ways of working. Meeting new people and making new friends.

What is the lifestyle like?

Being away is good if you have no family or no dog… or if you don’t like your husband! But I don’t like to leave my family. So, I travel with my husband and Great Dane called Gamba. She’s very good to travel with, very placid – she’s a couch potato!

We travel in a motorhome with two-level beds. We sleep in one and Gamba sleeps in the other. She loves sitting between the seats and watching the traffic. She was fearful of travelling at first, but now she’s really happy and loves visiting beaches.

We have joined the Camper Van Association and often stay at a campground which only costs $3 per night and allow pets. On the weekends, we stop in hidden places or explore Queenstown, Wanaka, the Catlins and places like that.

The lifestyle here is great, everything has its pros and cons.

What tips do you have for other doctors considering locuming?

My top tip? Scan all the documents you need – your license, your health stuff, everything you might ever need so you have them ready if required. Different Occupational Health people want different things. So it helps to have all of the information and documents at hand.

Also, make sure you organise your CPD peer group reviews. You need ten hours as a minimum and I haven’t been able to organise that. Check when they do it at each hospital, or arrange your own group. There’s a new requirement where it must be on the website – I didn’t know that before.

Finally, get an accountant! Maybe some people can manage themselves, but I can’t! You’re self-employed, so you need to keep on top of your bills, taxes and GST returns.

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Bethany Rogers
21 July 2022Article by Bethany RogersMedrecruit Editor