Finding work as a locum pharmacist can be a painful and long-drawn out process. I constantly hear from locums that no work is available. However, the work is there. The key is finding it.
I strongly believe in 3 essential techniques to be successful in finding and securing locum work:
The traditional way of finding locum work is by printing off business cards and spending a day visiting pharmacies. Business cards are relatively easy to obtain online and can be purchased for less than £10. However, do not be like the majority of other locums fretting over the colour and design of the card itself. A locum business card should contain your name and contact details. Anything more than this is probably over doing it. A positive of finding locum work this way is that you have the opportunity to create good first impression. However, it’s hard to know that your card will be placed in the drawer containing other business cards of the 1000 locums that called in before you.
Graduating from university does come with benefits in that now you have many friends who are also pharmacists. Make the most of these connections. Why not set up an informal agreement between you and your other friends. If a person gets asked to cover a shift and isn’t free they should then refer to another locum. This method works well but everyone has to participate and ensure all referrals are reciprocated. Ensure everyone in your referral network is working to the same standard because when you refer, your reputation is still on the line if the locum isn’t any good.
As you approach the end of your pre-reg: make your pharmacy aware you are ready, available and looking for work. It’s great to start locuming where you did your pre-reg as you already know staff, customers and also how the company operates. However don’t make this your only option for work. Pharmacists only locuming where they did their pre-reg can be disadvantaged because of limited experience of working elsewhere. Also when your pre-reg pharmacy doesn’t need cover- you are stuck without work. Keep your options open and look outside where you did your pre-reg- it pays off!
Locums can have a love/hate relationship with agencies. They love having the opportunity to effortlessly find work but hate when agencies take advantage of them. Before you sign up to an agency, do your homework.
Do they put the best interests of you as a locum first? Do they sign you into a contract in that you cannot take locum work elsewhere? Do they provide correct and timely information on locum slots? Will you be paid on time?
Personally I have had bad past experiences with agencies and used this the main reason for founding Locate a Locum, which is an online platform that connects pharmacists with employers without the need for agencies.
Are you using social media to find locum work? If not, you are missing out. Facebook and LinkedIn are especially awash with people and pharmacies needing cover.
Treat LinkedIn as your Locum Business card and connect with other pharmacists/pharmacies in your area. Use your profile to detail your experience as a locum and what you are currently looking for. Before long, you will be able to see this method can pay off in a huge way.
Facebook Groups also provide an opportunity not only to find work but also connect with other locums across the country. I myself make use of this in the Facebook Group: Locum Pharmacist UK and Ireland. On a daily basis, cover is needed and other locums are asking for advice.
Having a mobile phone is essential as a locum. How else do you expect to be contacted on the go? However making the most of this handy little tool also requires some more thought:
Be sure to have a mobile phone operator who has good coverage (mobile reception) in all areas. Ensure good battery (don’t forget to have a portable charger)
Don’t change your number often. Every time you do this you start right back at the beginning of “getting your name out there” Set up a proper voicemail –informing caller who they have reached and what to do and how you will respond.
Have some mobile data (this allows you to check email requests for cover and also respond to social media requests)
Check your phone. Obviously you need to pick a suitable time to do this (whilst speaking to a patient is definitely not a good idea). As a self-employed pharmacist any pharmacy owner should allow you to have a minute to yourself to check if you have received any requests and update your diary. Your livelihood depends on it.
Leaving a good impression starts before you complete the locum shift. Do you know how to get to the pharmacy and where to park? Does the previous pharmacist have any instructions for you? Do you know what computer system you are using?
If you do not know the answer to any of these questions, I suggest you contact the pharmacy before the shift and find out. Being well informed will help you to be a better locum on the day.
Locum Pharmacists are in a competitive market and your work will always be evaluated against all other pharmacists. Making this work in my favour I always do more than what is expected. If it is achievable of course. For example, completing your instructions and also making a start on prescriptions for delivery tomorrow.
Do as my mother used to say “Treat other people the way you would like to be treated”. For me this means leaving clear instructions or action notes for whoever is the pharmacist working after me. This allows easy follow up of any problems or issues and demonstrates greater thinking outside your booked slot.
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