Why locum doctors are the unsung heroes of healthcare

Locum doctor in rural area

First things first, let's get it straight all doctors are heroes. But locum doctors hold a unique and important position, sometimes flying under the radar, yet their contributions are monumental. This is why we wanted to take a moment to celebrate them and the work that they do. Locum doctors offer relief not just to overwhelmed healthcare facilities, but also to communities in dire need of medical services.

This article shines a light on the invaluable role locum doctors play in ensuring healthcare systems continue to function effectively, particularly in times of crisis.

Filling the gaps where needed most

Locum doctors step into roles across various healthcare settings, from bustling city hospitals to remote clinics. They fill vacancies created by shortages, ensuring that patient care remains uninterrupted. Their work is particularly vital in rural or remote areas, where medical professionals are scarce. Here, locum doctors can be lifelines for communities that would otherwise be left without essential healthcare services.

Dr Michael Nowotny is a Consultant Paediatrician and Medrecruit locum doctor. We caught up with him to discuss his recent experience working in Port Hedland as part of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), and how this essential service plays a critical role in providing high-quality medical care to remote communities across Australia.

"Due to the remote location, a large proportion of the health workforce are either locums or on short-term contracts. Part of the role of a consultant Paediatrician in Port Hedland is to be available to transport sick children and babies to higher acuity care centres; most commonly Perth which is 2-3 hours south by air. The trips can be challenging as once in the air, it is only the Paediatrician and an experienced transport nurse available to manage any issues en route. It is a very interesting and rewarding part of the job but not for the faint-hearted!"

Adaptable and versatile

One of the standout qualities of locum doctors is their adaptability. Moving from one assignment to another, they quickly acclimate to new environments, teams, and patient needs. This versatility is not just about geographical or institutional shifts but also involves adapting to the diverse medical challenges that come their way. In doing so, they not only provide important cover but also bring fresh perspectives and practices into their temporary workplaces, often improving the healthcare provision in the process.

Dr David Silley is an Intensive Care doctor and Medrecruit locum. “Working in intensive care it is quite long shifts, we work 12-13 hour days. When I go off to do my locum shifts I try to fit in as many as I can.”

When you are working as a locum “you turn up, and are put up in accommodation next to the hospital,” explained David.

“Then you go into the hospital where you are straight into the wards, but thankfully, the medicine in Intensive Care is the same wherever you go, so it is pretty easy to just kind of get into the swing of things.”

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Supporting continuity of care

Locum doctors play an important role in ensuring the continuity of care, stepping in to cover for permanent staff during absences, whether planned or unexpected. Their presence helps maintain patient care standards and prevents the backlog of treatments and procedures, a critical factor in patient satisfaction and outcomes.

Dr Dani Bachmann is a trainee in Anaesthesia and he was on a locum placement when he saved a life.

"If the environment is right, and the right staff is in the right placement, then more lives can be saved. “I think the most important thing is always to ensure you know the capabilities and limitations of each site and the staff with whom you will be working,” explained Bachmann.

Educators and mentors

Beyond their clinical duties, locum doctors often contribute significantly to the education and mentoring of permanent staff. With a wealth of experience from various healthcare settings, they share knowledge and skills that enrich the resident medical teams. This exchange of expertise fosters a learning environment, uplifting the overall quality of healthcare provision.

Altruism and dedication

Choosing the locum path is often driven by a desire to serve where the need is greatest. Many locum doctors are drawn to the profession out of a sense of altruism, seeking to make a real difference in people’s lives. Their commitment to healthcare and patient welfare often sees them taking assignments in underserved areas, sometimes under challenging conditions, highlighting their dedication to the Hippocratic Oath.

Locum doctors ensure that no community is left behind. Their contribution, though often behind the scenes, is monumental and deserves recognition and gratitude. As healthcare continues to face global challenges, the role of locum doctors will remain indispensable, symbolising hope and healing across the world.

Medrecruit Editorial Team
25 March 2024Article by Medrecruit Editorial TeamMedrecruit Editor