How to make the most of the locum lifestyle

locum doctors

Australia-based doctor, Lachlan Thompson has been making the most of the locum lifestyle.

The avid snowboarder was keen to find a career balance that enabled him to continue working, whilst fitting in more of what he loved to do. The ability to pay off his student debts was another priority.

Dr Lachlan heard about Medrecruit from another doctor, whom he ran into on a surgical ward call.

“He was about a year into it and he told me it was awesome – he loved the flexibility of it, he’d thought about getting onto different training programmes but he just couldn’t stop the addictive lifestyle,” says Lachlan, “I thought, wow, that sounds pretty amazing.”

Together with his girlfriend, photographer, and doctor Kendall Mead-Denyer, Lachlan signed up with Medrecruit in 2018. He’s since worked in around 12 different health districts across Australia, garnering a huge range of medical (and travel) experiences.

We gave Lachlan a call to see if the locum lifestyle stacked up.

Has the locum lifestyle been as good as you thought it would be?

Yeah! It’s been amazing. I have loved it.

You get a really good feeling for different areas and how they operate. You get a good scope of what works in one state that maybe doesn’t work in another. So, I’d try to transfer some of that knowledge across and suggest how to do things differently. Sometimes they don’t listen, and sometimes they do and you get to make a difference.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing all of these different places that I wouldn’t have gone to prior to this.

Small country towns and far North Queensland… places I’d love to go but haven’t had the time or the chance and now I can, all whilst working. It’s really enjoyable.

How has locuming helped you to achieve what you’d like to do?

The finances, obviously, help a lot. Coming out of med school I fell into the trap of having overdrafts and student loans. Of course, the pay that you get as a stock standard RMO is not great. With locuming you have the flexibility of working whatever job you want, for different pay. For example, if I wanted to work with my girlfriend, I could pick up a job with a standard RMO pay rate – one that’s still competitive. I was able to find work where I was getting paid very well and able to finally get rid of the med school debt that I’d been holding on to for about three years.

The timeframe is the other big thing. The ability to say: right, I’ll work these few weeks, and then I’ll have these few weeks off. I can start planning things in advance, whereas working as a full-time RMO, you have your blocks of leave, you have your five weeks a year and… it’s not that it is non-negotiable, but if you want to change it, you have to organise a swap with someone else.

What has your experience with Medrecruit been like?

They’re really, really flexible. I apologised to Lachie (Lachlan’s Solutions Specialist – yes, they have the same name!) in advance for being very picky because I understand that jobs at the start of the year can be a little bit difficult. But over the year, once it opens up, you can get really picky with your jobs. You can get a reasonable amount of sub-specialty interest, so you can get some work in a specialty that you’re interested in. It’s just so easy. For me, very. The main reason I stopped working at the hospital was the lack of flexibility and MedRecruit gives me infinite flexibility. I can work as much or as little as I want. I can stay local if you want or I can go to all of these new and amazing places.

Are there any locations that have been personal highlights?

I really enjoyed Canberra. It’s a place I never thought to go and friends asked, why are you going there? I think it’s because, if you haven’t been there in a long time, everyone thinks it’s this small country town. It’s not quite in the middle of nowhere. You’re driving through rural highways and farmland and nice country roads and then you come to this city. It’s gorgeous! And the food and the wine is amazing.

Of all the places I wanted to go, it wasn’t a place I would have proactively sought out. But I have fallen in love with it now. I want to move to Canberra.

Cairns as well, in far North Queensland. People argue that it should be the capital of North Queensland and I used to roll my eyes at them. Then I did a two-month stint up there and I loved it. There’s so much to do around there. The hospitals are great, the people are great. I really enjoyed the reef and the hikes and the nature and the outdoor sports. It was a great place to work.

What was it like locuming with your girlfriend?

It was really interesting. We have a little dog (Rosie) who came with us for most of our trips. We’re based in Queensland and we both got a job down in La Trobe in Gippsland (Eastern Victoria) and we drove down together, through a couple of country towns. We took a couple of nights and we got to explore together.

We did six weeks in La Trobe together, living in a little Airbnb with our pup and that was really enjoyable.

Again, it’s all about locuming giving us that time and flexibility which we hadn’t had in a few years.

When we came back, she got a job in Brisbane and stayed with the dog while I went off gallivanting around the country.

Did you manage to get shifts that matched up?

I try not to tell too many people this because I want to keep it to myself… but I think it is the best decision I’ve ever made. Particularly for people who aren’t sure and just going through the motions of trying to find something they like. I think it is one of the best decisions you can make.

I think the flexibility, working in different areas and with different people changes your perspective. Because working in the same district with the same people for too long, it’s easy to… not get Stockholm syndrome exactly… but it’s easy to forget that medicine is still a job. And you’ve got a job so that you can go out and live your life. It should not be all-consuming. You can go on holidays. You can go on adventures.

I’ve applied for the GP training programme and I think that’s because I have found the one that gives me that work-life balance… I do think about working locum full time forever though, I think I could see myself doing that!

Could you see yourself locuming, learning, and travelling? Register now to try the locum lifestyle for yourself.

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Bethany Rogers
18 April 2022Article by Bethany RogersMedrecruit Editor