How to be asked back as a GP locum
Locum work is plentiful right now. Indicate your availability and your inbox overflows with messages. “Desperately seeking,” “urgently need” and (more optimistically), “fantastic opportunity in a wonderful practice” (why does that lead to you feeling suspicious they’re struggling?). One practice manager sent a mailshot declaring themselves as “looking for a lover for a whole series of days.” Probably they meant “cover” – but people all have different needs to fill, workwise or otherwise.
But not all practices are created equal. It would be nice to be asked back to your favourite practices and avoid the ones where, frankly, you had a horrible time. But how can you make that happen?
We asked a selection of practice managers what they look for in a locum and what makes them ask you back. Here’s a summary of their replies:
Give the impression you’re reliable
This is about instilling a sense of confidence that you’re actually going to turn up. It’s as simple as answering emails promptly and being clear about what has been agreed. Locums not turning up, turning up late and not seeming to care or apologise about it, were all cited as issues for practice managers.
With new practices, it hurts no-one to drop them an email the day before just to confirm you’ll be there for the session.
Last minute cancellations for spurious reasons were also cited. Practice managers have a nose for locums who have booked work and then found a better deal elsewhere.
A contentious area – you may have other commitments to get to such as childcare, however clock watching or refusing to step in when asked to assist with emergencies can be interpreted as inflexibility by some practice managers. At the end of the day, it’s down to both sides being able to communicate with each other about expectations in advance and whether there is room to flex on the day.
Find out about the practice culture
This came up more than anything else. Many practices are looking for someone who will “fit in.” None of us can fit in everywhere. Some practices just want a bum on a seat to see patients and don’t care or they want the cheapest rate. Others want someone who talks to the staff, asks for help and is able to get on with the types of patients they have. This might boil down to where the locus of your doctor/patient centredness sits in relation to the partners.
Difference within a practice is healthy but ultimately there must be some common ground to thrive. If there’s a huge clash, you’ll sense it. But often the culture doesn’t become clear until after a few sessions when you’ve noticed that so many patients have some, erm, unusual items on prescription. Asking from the beginning what their policy is on seeing late patients (unless you have yours in your own T&Cs), how they deal with requests for housing letters etc, can be revealing. Some places still address all the doctors as Dr and others use first names. Learning the names of receptionists is important.
Be clinically sound
Partners in good practices will look at your notes afterwards and make sure they’re happy to have you back. Notes need to be detailed enough to protect you and for the next person to make sense of them. Documenting your plans, thought process and any uncertainty as well as how you safety netted are all good.
Forgetting to do referrals is common but will always look bad. Some practice managers viewed this as lazy as opposed to forgetful. Phoning up to chase results at the end of the morning or hand over to a receptionist or other doctor will look better – always document what you’ve done though, rather than leaving it looking like you passed the buck.
Be respectful to the patients
Locums are more vulnerable to complaints for numerous reasons. Patients may arrive perceiving you as inferior. A minority may think this is a good opportunity to vent their anger with the practice, knowing they can dump on you without having to see you again. Complaints are part of life these days; still it helps not to get into head to heads with people over trivialities. One practice had a locum finish their session and the practice subsequently received three complaint letters. Ok, this could just be very bad luck but, let’s face it, that practice is not going to ask that doctor back.
What are your tips to enhance relationships with practices? Leave a reply in the comments box or tweet us @Networklocum.
Dr Claire Davies
Editor of the Network Locum (now Lantum) blog