How locuming can help you choose your medical career path

Doctor Kathryn Mcmonagle - why locum

Choosing a specialty is an important decision, but a difficult one for many doctors. How do you choose the direction of the rest of your medical career?

Locuming, the practice of doctors taking on short-term positions in various locations, presents an opportunity for medical professionals to explore and define their career trajectories. For doctors, particularly those at early or transitional stages, it provides a unique lens through which they can examine different facets of the medical field and make informed decisions about their career paths.

Locuming offers exposure to diverse medical environments. Doctors can work in rural clinics, urban hospitals, private practices, or public health centers. Early-career doctors, especially, might be undecided about which specialty they want to pursue. A doctor might undertake roles in pediatrics, emergency medicine, or surgery, for example, gaining a clear understanding of what each specialty entails on a day-to-day basis. This first-hand experience is invaluable and cannot be replicated by studying specialty descriptions or discussing with peers and mentors.

Locuming also facilitates networking, which is instrumental in career advancement. Through various placements, doctors meet professionals from different backgrounds, each with their own experiences and advice.

We caught up with Dr Kathryn McMonagle in 2021, about how locuming helped her choose what she wanted to do, at a critical time in her medical career.

Choosing a medical career path

“Throughout high school, I loved science and the human body. I was driven to make a difference in people’s lives. When my grandmother got sick with breast cancer and became terminal, I wished I could do something to help. So I thought about a career where I could diagnose and cure people.”

A keen soccer player, Dr Kathryn studied medicine at Auckland University (New Zealand) and trained at North Shore Hospital. At PGY3, she knew she enjoyed working in the Emergency Department but wanted to take some time out of medicine.

“I decided to take a break. Lots of my non-medical friends were going on OEs [Overseas Experiences – a Kiwi rite of passage] and I thought: that looks like fun. I wasn’t burnt out but I really needed some ‘me time’ and want to get into my hobbies some more.

“[…] I was supposed to go last year, but obviously Covid-19 curtailed that. At first, I thought about taking back my resignation but then I thought: You know what? It’s a nice time to take time off and just see what I want to do with my life.

“A friend introduced me to Medrecruit and I thought: this is amazing! I can travel around the country and work in different hospitals. So that’s what I have done since August 2020.”

Dr Kathryn has always enjoyed the unexpected element and the pace of the Emergency Department. But she’s taken the time to explore other career paths, doing stints in Paediatrics and on surgical and medical wards (“it was interesting, but I’ve realised it’s not my thing”).

Exploring career options through locum work

Locuming enabled her to experience different specialties, different locations and what ED life is like in different hospitals.

“I’ve always been very keen on ED but I have only worked in big town departments. So the opportunity to go locuming has helped me really cement what I want to do.

“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.

“I have a lot of friends who have done their years as a House Officer and then gone straight on to a training pathway and that’s them set up for life. I don’t know about that. It means I’d be stuck in one job forever… when you’re young it’s a good time to locum and try what’s out there – and to travel a little.”

Dr Kathryn is starting her new full-time role as an ED Registrar in August 2021 and plans to do locuming on the side as she develops her skills and experience. Best of luck in your new role, Kathryn!

Locuming is an advantageous venture for doctors aiming to carve out their career paths. The diversity in work environments, patient cases, and medical specialties provides the clarity you need to make informed decisions about your professional futures. The flexibility, networking, and CV building that comes with locum roles are beneficial for personal and professional development. If you're determining your career trajectory, locuming can be an insightful and defining chapter of your professional journey.

Looking to gain experience and further your career as a locum? Work with us to find the right locum role for you. We’re a preferred supplier to hospitals and clinics across Australia and have jobs for locums at all career stages.

This article was orgininally posted in July, 2021. We updated the content and reposted in October, 2023.

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Dr Kathryn McMonagle
17 October 2023Article by Dr Kathryn McMonagleMedrecruit Doctor