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Career planning for locums

Posting by Sonia Hutton-Taylor of

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Why do locums need career planning?

Well not all do – for example – if a person is doing locums for one or more of the following reasons there may be little need for additional career planning.

  1. as a positive ongoing and longer term professional career choice in order to create autonomy of timetable and a feeling of independence/avoid practice bureaucracy as well as choosing location and with whom one works
  2. short spell between jobs that are not contiguous
  3. following a period of ill health or burnout
  4. as a wind down period prior to or as part of retirement
  5. in order to fill a specific period of time between other career commitments eg contracts that are not contiguous
  6. to simply work in the most flexible way possible eg to fit in with other activities,interests and responsibilities
  7. as a return to work after time out
  8. break from the rat race/training conveyor belt
  9. to support a period of postgraduate study
  10. to boost a research post income
  11. in order to save some money for a specific goal

What all these have in common is that they are very purposeful and part of a bigger career or life plan. The choice to do locums in all of the above is a positive one.


Image from Michael at Flickr

There are however some situations where a person moves into doing locum work because of one or more of these reasons

  • they don’t know what else to do / have run out of options
  • don’t really enjoy clinical work
  • as a lesser of evils, a “filler inner” or way of avoiding any career decisions or commitment
  • see locums as an escape from traditional medical careers but with no “master” plan
  • a lurking sense that there is something they should be doing but don’t know what

In these scenarios there is a need either before or whilst doing locums to pay some attention to a career re-evaluation. Without doing this there can emerge (though not invariably) a tendency to drift with or without a mild or severe chronic career dissatisfaction supervening over time.

These two different sets of “reasons why doing locums” – I will call them “proactive” and “reactive” can both really benefit from career guidance but for different reasons.

The proactive group – despite doing locum work within an overall plan might from time to time feel that they need some help with resetting career goals or defining new achievements and worthwhile things to work towards. In theory a really good appraisal might well address this sufficiently.

But if it doesn’t – some independent career guidance can further the cause and restore focus.

At least some of the reactive group are likely to be in urgent need of career re-evaluation. Locum work may still form a key element as part of the outcome. Thus they are not doing the wrong work as such. It is just that without sitting in part of a bigger picture – locum work in these situations can feel like a downwards slope rather than a happy compromise or even better… a proactive career plan.


Image from JacQyLyne at Flickr

The great thing about locums seeking career guidance is that they are often in a much better place to allocate proper time to career planning than say someone in a permanent post.

If there are ever gaps between locums – if one has a career plan already drawn up then that time can be used very constructively on overall career planning. To a degree one can define ones own working week and tailor it more during locum work than someone working on a regular employment basis. This can facilitate more effective career planning because one of the biggest challenges within any career plan is finding the time to do the many tasks involved with implementing it.

The ideal amount of time for career planning when there currently is no career plan is about four hours a week average – over a period of three to six months.

The biggest challenge is what to do in that allocated career planning time. This will of course vary tremendously from person to person according to their own particular blend of personality, skills, self limiting beliefs. dreams and aspirations.

My next guest blog will address how differently personalities tend to career plan and how this can help or hinder career and working life satisfaction.

There is a questionnaire on the Medical Forum website that aims to help clarify whether a person is in a proactive or reactive position career wise. Its free.

Sonia Hutton-Taylor is the founder of Medical Forum career management which offers independent and confidential career guidance


3 thoughts on “Career planning for locums

  1. Hallo,
    I read the above content on being GP locum and,since I am very interested, I wonder if there could be a chance to be helped in producing the necessary documents to be eligible to work in UK as GP and when planning the travels and the accomodations for the locum sessions. I am an italian GP and I’ve been trying for some years to have some working experiences in UK and possibly then decide to work only as a GP locum.
    I’d like to talk with someone who could guide me during this process.
    Thank you very much.
    Ciro Gnagnarella.

  2. Pingback: Can you be a GP locum forever? | Network Locum

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