What it’s like locuming as a junior doctor

Doctor jobs Byron Bay

Once you’ve reached PYG-2 in Australia, you’re allowed to locum as a junior doctor (so long as you stay within safe working hours!). There are lots of different reasons junior doctors choose to locum, but the opportunity to travel and work is one of the most common reasons we hear.

Junior doctor Gabby Everts is PYG-3, and she’s working toward becoming a medical registrar. Originally from New Zealand, she’s decided to cross the ditch and try life and work as a locum doctor in Australia.

“It was just for a bit of an adventure really."

“I know that I want to be a ‘Med. Reg.’ and I’ve got a job in Tauranga [New Zealand] starting in June. But I wanted to have a break first, to travel and do something a bit different.”

How much paperwork is involved in locuming?

Gabby spoke to her dad (who also does locum work) and a few other doctors who told her that locuming in Australia would be the adventure she was looking for. She started her job search with Medrecruit and began the arduous process of the paperwork (every doctor’s favourite hobby…). She needed to get her registration in Australia sorted, organise documents from the District Health Board, and get signed copies of her passport and an Australian tax number.

“I will warn people that there is quite a lot of admin, time, and effort involved—it’s not as easy as just accepting a job and flying over,” she says.

Though there was more paperwork than she expected and a few unexpected issues (like the temporary closure of a Government office), Gabby says, “Once you’re here, it’s good!”

“I had heard from other doctors that it is a bit of a journey to get here, but it’s worth it.”

Gabby's first locum placement

Her first placement was in a small town near Melbourne. It was only two hours on the train to the city and Gabby’s friend was locuming in the same area. “It was a boring town,” she admits, but she made the most of having a friend nearby, and the pair took the train to see events like the Australian Open.

“We had each other, which was good, and the work was pretty good.”

She secured a lot of work at La Trobe but has also spent a little more time relaxing and enjoying locations like the Gold Coast.

“I did a few days at Tweed Hospital on the Gold Coast, then came here to Byron Bay, and in mid-March, I started at Gold Coast University Hospital for three weeks. That’ll be cool. […] I really liked Byron Bay and Tweed because they’re such beautiful locations.”

What are the challenges of locuming?

Aside from the paperwork, Gabby has found the uncertainty of locuming challenging.

“I’ve had to take things day by day, and things have always popped up, but it is a bit of a challenge for me as I usually like to be very organised and have everything planned out, so to not know where I am working next week is quite challenging for me but… it’s good.”

She’s also had to adapt to new computer systems and learn where things are and how each placement works without the in-depth orientation she’d receive at the beginning of a permanent role.

“There’s a lot of learning, but within a day, you can work out the important things, and within a few days, you feel like you’ve got the computer systems down.”

“[…] Job-wise, the medicine is mostly the same, but we have a lot of different drugs in Australia, so that was something to learn… they use brand names a lot too, so that was something to get used to, to figure out what they’re talking about!”

Should junior doctors locum?

Overall, she says she would recommend locuming to other junior doctors (and the paperwork is worth it in the end!). Locuming enables junior doctors to travel and explore new places and ways of working. Most of all, Gabby says she’s learned about herself; “going out there and travelling, seeing new places and putting myself out of my comfort zone. The medicine is fairly similar, but every day you learn something.

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Bethany Rogers
23 May 2022Article by Bethany RogersMedrecruit Editor