Podcast #9

Roller Coaster at night
Just like any job, locuming has it’s ups and downs.
Locuming is becoming a larger and larger part of the veterinary industry as veterinarians choose to take more control of their professional lives, and as the industry demands more locums due to lack of retention of full time-staff.

Every job has it’s ups and downs, this blog will focus on the PROS and CONS of locuming, to help you determine if it is best for you.
image of pug puppy that is very happy
Being a locum can make you one happy pupper, for lots of reasons…
1. SCHEDULE: As a locum you get to make your own schedule. This means that you have complete control of when you work! Vacation whenever you want/are able, don’t work those nights that you have a boxing class, and be free for as many of your kids musical performances as you want!

2. MONEY: Locums are paid higher rates than full time employees. Sometimes this rate is only the 25% increase to compensate for not being paid vacation time, sick leave or CE allowances. However, in today’s veterinary climate, locums are in high demand and therefore can charge higher rates. Also, locums seem to be better at advocating and demanding appropriate pay rates, which can make their overall income significantly higher as they receive 25% over what a vet SHOULD be paid, vs. what vets ARE being paid.

3. POLITICS: Locums, since they are often working at multiple clinics, and since they are not ‘full-time’ employees, are often able to avoid the drama and politics in a clinic. They are often not involved in team meetings, clinic campaigns, and are less likely to be involved in gossip or drama simply from not being around as much. Work for locums can be kept at an ‘arm’s length’. 

Cat with back leg up in air in flexible yoga pose.
Having flexibility in your hours, clinics and career is one of the desirable attributes of the locum career.
Since locums make their own schedules and pick their own shifts, they have flexibility as to when vacation time can be taken, how much they work, and which clinics they will be ‘exposed’ to. This means flexibility in equipment and tools you get to ‘play’ with, flexibility in the type and quality of medicine, flexibility in clientele. This, by nature of variety, keeps you on your toes, keeps you learning, keeps you PROFESSIONALLY GROWING! This tackles one of the biggest issues that vets have with the field, which is feeling stagnant or lacking potential for professional growth.

5. CONTROL: Locums have complete control over their hours, their work environment (via which clinics they choose to work for), and also their pay rate. If a clinic won’t pay their desired rate, they can just say ‘no’ to taking that shift.

Having control over your job, your work, and your life, is incredibly important for mental health! Knowing that you are 'tied down' to a clinic, and that if you want you never have to work at that clinic again, makes work more managable because the feeling of being 'trapped' is removed. This means that when something is bothering you about your work, instead of feeling powerless and letting it eat at you, you make the decision of 'yes, this is bad enough to not work here again', or 'no, this is not that big of a deal and I will take more shifts'. This forces you deal with, and let go, of those small factors that can make work hard.

6. CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS: Locums, since they are not at a clinic long-term, don’t usually make long-term relationships with clients. For those that don’t relish in the human-animal bond, this can be a huge pro!

7. VARIETY: Since locums work at many different clinics, they get variety in their day-to-day jobs. This means that they get to work with different people, different equipment, different types of cliental, different work environment, different daily commute, and have more ‘time off’ between shifts at one particular clinic. This is helpful for mental health, but also gives a greater exposure to different approaches to veterinary care, which helps keep the job interesting and keeps the locum learning.

Sad pug puppy.
Locuming has it’s down sides. The choice to locum should be made with these ‘Cons’ in mind.
1. LACK OF SUPPORT: As a locum you are coming in when the clinic is understaffed already, meaning that you are unlikely to have a great support team at that clinic. This isn’t true for all clinics, however usually you will be on your own, or at least need to be able to hold your own. Also, the clinic doesn’t have any reason to support your professional growth. You are unlikely to be trained, or given time to learn new procedures/techniques.

2. NO CE/CPD: As a locum, you won’t have paid time off for CPD, or be given a CE allowance. This means that you must be self-directed to keep your learning going. Locums need to financially invest in their own learning to continue growing as a professional.

3. NO SICK PAY: As a locum, you will not have ‘sick days’ that are paid. Also, as you are being called in when the clinic is under-staffed, calling in sick isn’t really looked to kindly upon. Any day you don’t work because you are sick, is money NOT in your pocket. Your increased rate is designed to cover for this in the long run, however this means you need to manage your money and save for a rainy day.

4. NO VACATION PAY: As a locum you will not have paid ‘vacation days’. This means that if you take time off to take a break, you will not have income for that portion of time. Your increased locum rate should be accounting for this, but it means you will need to better budget your time and money.
Book Cover images of Gail Vaz Oxlade's Books
For a good book or two on how to manage money, budget and work out how much money you need vs. your expenses, Gail Vaz-Oxlade has a few books that are amazing, especially for those that are in the beginning of their ‘financial learning curve’. Personally Money Rules and Debt Free Forever were great for me as a new grad with debt!
5. CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS: Locums often don’t make long-term relationships with clients as they aren’t in a clinic enough or for long stretches of time. For some, this is detrimental as they love the human-animal bond and the human component of the veterinary industry. 

6. LOSE CASE TO FOLLOW-UP: As a locum, because you are not consistently in one clinic, you will often ‘lose cases to follow up’, meaning that you won’t know how your treatment/intervention worked, or how the case did, because you don’t see that patient long term. This is difficult as response to treatment is an important way for us to train our ‘Pattern Recognition’ (See Gold Standard vs. Real World Medicine ) and to learn and grow as professionals. 

When you are a 'fixer' and you like to help change and progress clinics, locuming can be a frustrating experience.
Since you are not a full-time employee, as a locum it is very hard to make any changes in a clinic. You are power-less to change policies or processes in clinics, and this can be frustrating if you like to ‘fix’ things. 

8. MEDICAL STANDARDS: Since you are going into various clinics, you can be put into situations as a locum where you are asked to perform medicine that isn’t ‘up to your standards’. 

As a locum it is very important to have your own standards. It is important to discuss these standards with clinics, and either you can make them happen, or don’t work for that clinic in the future. Your license is still on the line when you work as a locum, so ensure you are holding yourself true to the standards you set for yourself. You can do great medicine at a clinic with limited resources, you will just have to push to demand what you require, and if that clinic isn’t a good fit, find another one. 

9. SCHEDULE: As a locum you may be offered so many shifts you have your pick and can work exactly how much and what hours you want, and this is the more likely situation in today’s veterinary climate. However, you are subject to the available shifts, so this can mean that you can end up with a patchy or hap-hazard schedule, or one that isn’t pre-set or available in advance. Having a larger exposure to clinics where you can work and get shifts is helpful. Bringing your resume and making contacts with all the clinics in your area where you would like to work will give you more flexibility, but be careful as you might end up with more work than you wanted! (Learn to say 'no') Also, being an AMAZING LOCUM will help you get first pick of clinics, and help you have more control of your schedule.


Pug puppy wrapped up in a blanket looking sad.
Ensure you have a financial safety blanket in case your shifts are suddenly gone.
The biggest concern for many locums is that there is no security in your position. If the clinic hires a full-time or part-time employee, you are out of shifts, and this can be sudden. You can make contracts that state the clinic owes you pay for lost wages if they cancel in certain time-frames, however you would need to discuss with a lawyer if your contract holds any legal bearing. This means that you should always keep a safety net of finances so that if shifts fall through you can still pay the bills.

If you feel the locuming pros outweigh the cons, and you are considering becoming a locum, check out How to Be a KICK ASS Locum/Relief Veterinarian and KICK ASS Tips for Veterinary Relief Locums .

Do you think locuming/relief work might be for you but you aren’t sure if you should make the leap? KICK ASS Consulting can help you determine if locuming is a good life choice for you!
Written by Dr. Ann Herbst BSc, DVM

Published October 6th, 2019

Advocate for yourself, you are the only one that will!

Most Recent Blogs
KICK ASS Boundaries for Locums
Locuming can leave you just as stressed and exhausted as full-time work, if you don't set the right boundaries!
Imposter Syndrome
Chances are you will experience Imposter Syndrome in your career, so tackle it head on!
KICK ASS Confidence
Confidence is knowing that you cannot know everything, and new/recent graduates need to know this!
Stay In Touch With Kick Ass Vets