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20 June 2017

Thinking about becoming a Locum Pharmacist?

Locum pharmacists are an integral part of the pharmaceutical workforce – is it for you?

By definition, as a locum pharmacist you are a pharmacist employed on a contractual basis through an agency, rather than having a permanent salaried position. Yet while the benefits are clear for some – the ability to choose your own hours and pay – there are some less attractive elements. In this blog, we delve deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of being a locum pharmacist.

Pros of being a Locum Pharmacist

  • Variety

It’s the spice of life, and being a locum pharmacist you get it in bucket loads. By working in different places – GPs, clinics, hospitals – you get the opportunity to see it all. Every pharmacy will work differently, from the type of drugs and doses prescribed, to the small habits and processes, you will be able to build up a knowledgeable picture of the industry with every new contract. If you apply yourself correctly, you can translate this into a best practise approach that you can take with you to each new pharmacy you work at, delivering improvements. The best locum pharmacists are the ones that take the attitude of learning and development and apply it through their tenures at different pharmacies.

  • Flexibility

There’s a lot of discussion around the ‘work/life balance’, with people demanding to work how, when and where they want in order to be more productive and fulfilled. Luckily, locum pharmacists already benefit from this level of flexibility, giving you greater control of your own schedule in large. While working from home , is unlikely to be an option for pharmacists in the near future, you can however, choose their length of contract, hours, location and other terms. If you want to take six weeks off to go travelling, work only three days a week, or experience a new part of town – no problem. It’s worth noting though, that this flexibility may only arrive when you’ve built up a good network of contacts and bank of experience. Competition for locum contracts can often be very competitive, so while some times you may be looking to work as little as possible there are likely to be others that you are fairly desperate for some shifts.

Thinking about becoming a Locum Pharmacist?

Image: Adobe Stock

  • Pay

Chances are you’ve heard about locum pharmacists in relation to conversations about ‘good levels of pay’. It’s true that the wages are very attractive. Make sure you stay on the pulse about what rates you can expect to charge and always agree up front with the pharmacy on what your fee will be. As it’s such a lucrative prospect, many pharmacists with salaried positions pick up some locum shifts in the evenings or at weekends to earn some extra cash. In general, the favourable levels of pay are a reflexion of the flexible nature of the position. You need to be paid well for a few weeks’ work, if there is a potential that you won’t work for the couple of weeks after.

Cons of being a Locum Pharmacist

  • Loneliness

Being a locum pharmacist, shares some of the potential drawbacks of any freelance or contractor position working on your own. Moving from place to place and not settling anywhere for longer than a year means it can be difficult to build up a rapport with a team and develop meaningful working relationships with the other salaried employees as well as regular patients. You may feel that you constantly need to prove, and re-prove your talents over and over which can take its toll on your work welfare. In addition, it is unlikely that you will have trusted people around you that you can rely on for support on advice. For some, this view of being a locum pharmacist is ideal, but for others who crave a more sociable and stable work life it’s worth bearing in mind.

  • Admin

As a locum pharmacist, you don’t have an HR or finance team to turn to when you need help with any administrative or payroll queries. You must be take responsibility for scheduling, billing, and all tax affairs with HMRC. This should be viewed as an extra layer to the day job, with no time to do this during pharmacy opening hours. To be a successful locum, admin is something you need to keep on top of, whether it is chasing an organisation for payment or booking in your next six months of shifts. If you don’t – the situation will become messy very quickly. There are resources that locums can employ however, including an agency to handle shift booking, and many pharmacists would recommend outsourcing finances to an accountant. Be prepared to run your services like a business, and for completing the necessary admin.

  • Training

Salaried positions in any organisation, are by in large accompanied by some level training. This is designed to make sure a workforce is operating at its most productive level, providing employees with the tools and skills to perform effectively. Every pharmacy will be different, but as a locum pharmacist you cannot expect to be included in regular trainings alongside salaried employees. From the pharmacy’s point of view, why would they bother investing in someone who was set to leave after a certain period of time? The onus to keep up with the latest industry developments and training, is therefore squarely yours as a locum pharmacist. There may also be cost associated with this, so worth bearing in mind.

Top Tips for Becoming a Locum Pharmacist

  • Do Your Research – Look beyond the pay and flexible hours, and delve into the other factors like demand, admin before jumping to a decision to go locum
  • Hire an Agency – Do your homework and select one that will work in your interests
  • Buy a Diary – Whether you are a master of excel or a live though post-it notes; get organised
  • Be professional – Turn up on time, work hard and always aim to be an asset to your pharmacy
  • Enjoy it – Having made the decision to locum, make sure to enjoy the flexibility your schedule allows

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