Mistakes First-Time Locums Make and How to Avoid Them

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As a first-time locum, it's easy to fall into common pitfalls that can make your transition into temporary work more challenging than it needs to be. From not fully understanding your contract to underestimating the time it takes to get up to speed at a new practice, there are many potential missteps that can be avoided with a bit of preparation and knowledge. In this article, we'll explore the mistakes first-time Australian locums often make and provide actionable tips for avoiding them.


Don’t underestimate long travel times

As a locum tenens doctor, you may be travelling to various locations to fill temporary positions. While this can be an exciting and rewarding experience, it's important not to underestimate the time it takes to get from one place to another.

Long travel times can impact your ability to arrive at your assignment on time, which can be disruptive to patient care and the practice's operations. It can be physically and mentally exhausting to spend hours on the road, which can negatively impact your performance and overall job satisfaction. It's essential to factor in sufficient travel time and plan accordingly to ensure that you can meet your obligations and avoid unnecessary stress.


Beware short-term positions

When searching for locum tenens positions, it's important to beware of incredibly short assignments in clinics and hospitals. While a one or two-day position may seem like an easy way to earn some extra money, it's important to consider the logistics involved in accepting a very short assignment. For example, it may be difficult to get credentialed and oriented to the new practice in such a short period of time, which could impact your ability to provide high-quality care to patients.

Additionally, you may need to travel a significant distance for the assignment, which may not be worth the time and expense for such a short period of work. In general, it's better to look for assignments that are long enough to provide value for your time and effort, while still allowing you to maintain a work-life balance.


Don’t forget to negotiate your pay

When accepting a locum tenens position, it's essential to negotiate your salary. While the offered rate may be acceptable, it's important to understand that you have the right to negotiate and advocate for a fair rate that reflects your qualifications and experience. Don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth, and come prepared with evidence of comparable rates in the industry.

Keep in mind that factors such as the location, duration of the assignment, and scope of responsibilities can all impact your pay, so be sure to take these into account when negotiating. A higher pay rate not only provides a sense of fairness but can also increase your motivation and overall job satisfaction, so it's worth the effort to advocate for yourself.


Document thoroughly

Thorough documentation is crucial as a locum tenens doctor. It not only ensures that you are providing high-quality patient care, but it also helps to protect you in the event of a malpractice lawsuit. From patient history and treatment plans to medication lists and test results, every aspect of patient care should be thoroughly documented in a timely and accurate manner.

It's important to document other aspects of your work as well, such as your work schedule, work-related expenses, and any communication with the practice. This documentation not only helps you keep track of important details but also provides a record that can be referred to in case of any issues or misunderstandings.


Find a suitable agency

Finding a suitable locum doctor agency can make all the difference in this line of work. Remember to look for an agency that has a strong reputation in the Australian medical industry, with a proven track record of successfully placing physicians in temporary positions. Consider the types of practices and specialties that the agency works with to ensure that they align with your interests and expertise.

Depending on where you’re located, you may want to do thorough research into these agencies. A locum doctor that wants to work in NSW should check out a reputable locum service in Sydney, for example. Those that want to work in multiple states should look for agencies that cooperate with clinics throughout Australia.


Review your contract

It's crucial to thoroughly review and inspect your locum position contract before taking on any new position. Make sure that the terms of the contract, including pay rate, duration of the assignment, and scope of responsibilities, are clearly outlined and acceptable to you. It's also essential to review the expectations for the assignment, such as work hours and on-call responsibilities.

Pay attention to any clauses related to the termination of the contract, malpractice insurance, and non-compete agreements. If you have any questions or concerns about the contract, don't be afraid to ask for clarification or negotiate terms. Make sure to obtain a copy of the signed contract for your records, and keep it in a safe and easily accessible place.



Locum tenens work can be an excellent opportunity for physicians looking for flexibility and variety in their work. However, it's essential to avoid common mistakes that can make the experience more challenging than it needs to be. From thoroughly reviewing your contract and negotiating your pay to carefully documenting your work and being mindful of travel times and short assignments, paying attention to these details can help you thrive in your locum tenens position.

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