Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS
The demand for vets has never been higher, and many practices are advertising their need for help. Because of the lack of permanent veterinary staff, there’s also more demand for locums at the moment. So, if you’re facing the decision of whether to take a permanent position as a vet, vet tech, or veterinary nurse or work as a locum, how do you know what’s right for you? Let’s find out the pros and cons so you can decide which direction suits your needs.
What are the benefits of being a locum veterinarian or vet nurse?
Control Your Working Hours
If you need flexible working hours because you need to do the school run or have other commitments, being a locum might be a good option. Or perhaps there are certain days you can’t work, and that’s okay too. Being a locum gives you more flexibility to choose when you work. Don’t forget, though, that many practices will have standard shifts so it’s possible some may not be able to offer the flexibility you’re after. It’s also worth bearing in mind that you can put in a request for flexible working hours to your employer if you’re on a permanent contract.
Keep Your Work-life Balance
If the thought of a 5 day week and regular weekend work fills you with dread, it might be worth considering working as a locum. You have the freedom to accept or refuse shifts depending on how often you want or need to work. So, you don’t have to miss out on hobbies, socializing with friends, or having quality time with your family.
Name Your Price
As a locum, you can decide your daily or hourly rate. Of course, if you set it too high you might not get as many bookings, but if you’re realistic you can make a substantial amount more than many veterinarians and vet nurses on permanent contracts.
Meet New People
If you visit a new veterinary team regularly, you’ll have the chance to meet diverse groups of people, learn from their skills and hear their stories. You could develop great friendships if you choose to return to the same practices.
Visit Different Practices
It’s not just the people that will offer variety, if you’re a locum you will likely attend several different practices. This can be refreshing and keeps things interesting, but it’s also a great way to get some insight into what you would want from your ideal position in the future.
Choose to be Self-employed… or Not
As a locum, you can choose to be self-employed or work via an umbrella company. You can get in touch with Locum Vet Pay which offers a range of business services and specilaises in the Veterinary Industry. Their services include Umbrella Company Set Up & Management, Administrative Services, Accountant Services & General Self Employed Support. The choice is yours depending on whether you feel capable to do your own admin and manage your diary and finances or if you’d like support.
What are The Potential Downsides to Being a Locum?
It’s not all good news, sadly. Although being a locum can suit the right type of person well, it’s worth considering whether these factors might affect you:
Lots of ‘First Days’
If you’re the type of person that is unphased by new people and places and gets stuck into a new job role from the get-go, then being a locum sounds perfect. However, if you hate having first-day nerves, you might want to consider a permanent role where you only have to have one first day!
Less Bonding with Colleagues
Many vets who have permanent work positions enjoy a team atmosphere and a social life with colleagues outside of work. These bonds with colleagues can be a vital source of support throughout life’s ups and downs, so it’s important to think carefully about how a lack of permanent colleagues might affect you.
There’s a definite lack of continuity of care if you’re a locum, especially if you do single days rather than blocks of work. This doesn’t just mean that you won’t get to know the clients or follow a puppy and their family as they grow, it also means you might not find out what happened to the collapsed dog you treated last week. If cases tend to play on your mind and you need resolution to feel at peace, you might struggle with this aspect of being a locum.
No Holiday Pay
It’s great to choose your hours and your days off as it gives you precious time to spend doing whatever is important to you. However, the downside is that if you’re a locum you don’t get holiday pay. If you’re not working, you won’t get paid. Therefore, being a locum requires a fair amount of financial planning to make sure you have the funds to make it through holidays, time off, or lulls in bookings.
No Sick Leave
On the same note, you also won’t get sick leave. If you’re unwell and can’t work you’ll miss out on the money, so it’s important to have a backup plan like income protection or critical illness cover that will come into play if you’re unable to work due to ill health for a long period.
Less Interesting Cases
If you work as a locum vet, you might find that you end up seeing a string of vaccinations and other routine appointments day in, and day out. Or as a locum vet nurse, you might see post-operative checkups and take sutures out. This might improve after you’ve become a regular at a particular practice, and the team gets to know your skill set. However, as a rule, many teams find it’s more efficient to have the locum staff do all the routine consults so that the permanent staff are available to do surgeries and more challenging diagnostics. Therefore, if you’re easily bored or still want to be challenged in your job, you might want to think hard about whether being a locum is for you.
Everyone is different, and while some vets thrive on the unpredictability and variety of being a locum, others find it daunting. Before you decide whether being a locum is for you, consider all the aspects above to help you make the best choice for you.
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