Temporarily covering for a doctor who is taking leave, or even helping to manage a large workload in a busy clinic, or hospital ward, isn’t just about maintaining patient care. Locum work can also serve as a useful career move for doctors looking to transition out of full-time work, or who may be looking to retire. In fact, locum work can be a useful retirement strategy, giving you the opportunity to maximise your retirement savings, create flexibility in your work schedule, and even travel.
Here we look at the advantages of locum work, and why it can be a truly rewarding experience for doctors looking to transition from full-time work and into retirement.
Locum as a semi-retirement strategy
The typical stereotype of a locum doctor is usually a young doctor, keen to travel and looking to gain a variety of experiences. But locum work also has a lot of attractive benefits to senior doctors who are looking towards retirement.
Many doctors, who aren’t quite ready to give up full-time work, but are starting to think about retirement can enjoy the benefits of locum work. You get full control over your work scheduled, while giving the best of care to your patients — without the administrative fuss and stress of being overworked.
Adopting a locum position also lets you create more work-life balance, where you get to enjoy leisure activities, travel, or even to spend more time with your family or grandchildren.
Maximise your retirement savings
Instead of dipping into your retirement funds, locuming lets you supplement your income when it suits you.
Locum rates, generally, aren’t fixed and can vary greatly depending on your level of experience, grade, specialty, hospital location, the amount of responsibility you have, the length of contract and urgency of the start dates. Rural hospitals or GP clinics often have higher pay rates than metropolitan facilities, particularly if it’s a last-minute locum. Specialists often earn between $2,000-3,000 AUD per day, with a week’s work paying up to or over $15,000.
With fantastic locum rates, choosing to work as a visiting specialist can help you achieve your retirement goals faster and be complimentary to retirement savings. And even if your retirement income is enough to keep you comfortable, picking up a locum shift here or there can help you pay for the extras, like regular travel.
Gain experience in different learning environments
Locum work can help keep your skills current and broaden your experience. Many doctors who adopt locum work report enjoying the feeling of keeping up with their medical skills. Another benefit is gaining experience from a range of teams and specialities you may otherwise not get to enjoy if they were fully retired.
Locuming is also a rewarding experience for more senior doctors who get to help upskill rural and remote hospital doctors. They share experiences, provide leadership and invaluable mentorships.
Making a real difference to patient care while meeting skill shortages in some of our most vulnerable areas is also a driver for many semi-retired doctors who commit to locum work. One General Practitioner notes, “Outback work is the antithesis of medicine in cities. I go back to first principles and am often the difference between a medical service staying open or shutting down.”
Opportunity to explore Australia
Working as a locum doctor is the perfect way to get paid, while exploring our beautiful country.
You get to choose your location, your hours and how long you stay. With placements available across all of Australia, in every state and territory, you can work in unique locations too.
And it can be easy to find opportunities. Connecting with a recruitment agency, like Wavelength, takes the hassle out of finding locum work. They find the positions for locum doctors, look after the paperwork and manage all the negotiations.
Working in different locations also helps to grow your network by meeting new people, developing your contacts, skills and knowledge from outside your normal circle.
Freedom and flexibility
Locum work gives you the freedom and flexibility to work when and where you want. You have the freedom to create your own schedule, choose which placement you accept, and for how long. And there’s a range of placement types available, some lasting a few days and others going for many months — perfect for doctors who want to see and explore a new location or who might have more time on their hands to commit.
Traditionally, locum work was how hospitals filled last-minute, unexpected vacancies, locum work has now come to include more long-term positions too, with doctor shortages being common among rural clinics, hospitals and even busy city practices turning to locums to support patient care.
While locum work has always been popular among junior doctors, giving them the flexibility to work while studying, or during holidays, it’s now increasingly popular among doctors looking to retire. Locum work gives retiring doctors the opportunity to work around their changing life circumstances and to stay relevant, especially when bridging the gap from full-time work to retirement.
Visiting doctors are always in demand and offer retired doctors the perfect opportunity to renew their enthusiasm. You get to enjoy new work environments, keep your skills relevant, help mentor younger doctors, meet new people, while keeping physically and socially active.
There are also ample opportunities to cultivate a real sense of job satisfaction, with lots of locum work located in regional areas where you get to support local communities. For example, working in remote communities and practicing indigenous health is an incredibly rewarding experience for many locum doctors. “My days are always interesting, challenging and satisfying. Working in Indigenous health is a great use of my medical education and it’s a humbling experience,” says one General Practitioner.
Do you think locum work could be right for your retirement plan?
Locum work has many benefits, no matter where you are in your career. But for those who are looking to transition from full-time work and into semi-retirement it can be the perfect road to take towards retirement. You get to take advantage of attractive pay rates, see the beauty Australia has to offer, maintain flexibility in your work, keep relevant and make a difference.
Locum insights: flexibility in retirement
One semi-retired doctor, who has worked in private and public hospitals throughout his whole career, now chooses hospital-based locums as they give him flexibility to work when he wants, doing work that suits his experience and that he enjoys.
“I’ve done nearly 50 locums in both regional and remote locations and have found the whole experience extremely rewarding. Most hospitals that need locums are minimally staffed and really need the help we provide,” he says.
“There’s almost always something interesting happening, or an event taking place where you can make a difference. And I really enjoy working with trainee doctors, who are almost always clever, committed and nice people.”