Top 5 Rookie Mistakes Locums Doctors Make


Starting a new job or embarking on a new career is a time of transition. When physicians start doing locums work, there is a lot to learn not necessarily about practicing medicine, but about how the locums industry works. What you don’t know can hurt you and can cost you money. Here are the top mistakes that young locums physicians make.

Rookie Mistake #1: Not being prepared. Preparation is key. In order to succeed in doing locums, you must first do your homework. You need to decide what type of locums work you want to do regarding your specialty, location, work schedule, work duties, and pay rate. You must also be clear about your reasons for doing locums and how long you wish to work as a locums doctor. You need to decide if you are doing locums short or long term, and whether you are looking for a locums-to-permanent position. If you are not certain about these things, you are at risk of accepting a locums assignment that may not suit your needs.

Rookie Mistake #2: Failing to negotiate. Locums companies have a pay range that they can pay for any locums position. The pay that they offer can vary as much as $50/hour. The locums company makes more profit if they can pay you less. Therefore, the first payrate they offer you may not be the most they can pay. There is some “wiggle room”, so to speak. You don’t want to price yourself out the market, but you do want to get paid at the top of the pay range. Talk to other locums physicians in your specialty to see how much they are being paid. Also talk to as many recruiters as possible to get an idea of the pay rate nationwide in your specialty.

Rookie Mistake #3: Failure to Get it in Writing. In in medicine, there is the saying “if you didn’t document it, you didn’t do it”. When doing locums, it is imperative that everything is documented in writing. Oftentimes locums recruiters will misrepresent an assignment just to get you to sign up for it. They will even make unrealistic representations regarding the assignment, pay, schedule, provider expectations, etc. Once you start working the assignment, you may realize that things are not as they were presented. Unfortunately, you may have no recourse if you do not have what was agreed upon in writing via the original contract, confirmation letter, or emails. Even if the situation changes in the middle of an assignment, be sure you get those changes documented in writing.

Rookie Mistake#4: “Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket”. Due to the nature of locums, things can change at any time. Therefore, you may have a locums job today only to be told the next day the client no longer needs your services. Because a client can cancel an assignment anytime for any reason, you must always have another locums job available to work. If you don’t, you run the risk for being without work for an extended period. Therefore, always be on the search for your next assignment regardless of how great your current assignment seems.

Rookie Mistake #5: Being Desperate. Working as a locums is often filled with uncertainty. Uncertainty about when you will get your first assignment, whether you will like it, whether you will be able to make the money you desire. This uncertainty often causes locums physicians to make decisions out of desperation. They may feel as though they have no choice but to take an assignment they don’t want, or stay longer at an assignment than they intend to. Remember this, as a good physician, you, for the most part, are in a position of advantage. There is a physician shortage and the demand for physicians outstrips the supply, hence the demand for locums. Therefore, if an assignment doesn’t work out or ends earlier than expected, you must be confident and know that you will find your next assignment very soon.

Starting to work as a locums doctor can be fulfilling, but it has some pitfalls to avoid. If you can avoid these top rookie mistakes, your locums career will be off to a great start.

Find out more about how to succeed in the locums game in my online Locums Life Academy. There you will find proven tips, tricks, and strategies that will ensure that you will not only survive the locums game, but thrive in the locums game as well!

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