Managing the Challenges of Locum Nursing

Dec 17, 2021

Most locum nurses will agree that the career path can be extremely varied, interesting and rewarding, providing opportunities to experience a range of new places, healthcare environments and people. But as with anything in life, working as a locum also comes with its hurdles. The good news is that by understanding the risks and being proactive, you can ensure you have the best journey possible.

We’ve put together our top tips for managing the challenges of locum nursing.

Embrace the Uncertainty

Not knowing when you’ll be called in for your next locum nursing job can be daunting, especially if you’re just getting started. It’s an inescapable fact that any type of locum work can be unpredictable (not so much though if you worked with a specialist nursing recruiter!), but the upside of the uncertainty is the degree of flexibility that this role affords you. In a day and age where everyone is striving for work/life balance, you’re fortunate enough to have a role that gives you full control of your daily schedule and freedom to choose your own agenda.

In saying that, the best way to manage the uncertainty is to ensure you succeed at every job sent your way. This will ensure you maintain a good reputation within key networks, making it easy to line up your next role. And keep in mind that since good nurses are always in high demand in the UK (and now more so than ever), you’re sure to have plenty of opportunities available when you want them.

Focus on Relationships

Whatever branch of nursing you’re in, the chances are that you thrive on relationships. Nurses tend to be all about people – their patients, their families, their friends. Helping people is what drives you to get up each day.

As a locum nurse, it’s important that these key relationships extend to the hospitals, clinics and the recruitment agency you work with. Maintaining strong relationships and keeping communication lines open ensures that you stay top of mind and highly employable in your capacity as a Locum.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions

When working in a new locum nursing role, it’s wise to gather as much information as possible – ideally before you even step foot on the grounds. Of course, your locum recruitment agency will provide you with a full rundown of the role and what to expect. If the hospital or practice provides you with an information pack, make sure you read it as soon as possible, noting any queries. The more knowledge you have, the better informed you are to hit the ground running and provide the best care for your patients.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of other staff at the practice too. It’s understandable to worry about bothering them, but clarifying any uncertainties when you’re in new surroundings is critical. At the end of the day, getting the answers will allow you to carry out your job successfully.

Never Stop Learning

There’s no such thing as becoming stale in a role when it comes to locum nursing. Locum work can keep your skills current and broaden your experience. On the other hand, it can seem like the ground is currently shifting.

This is all about a mindset change. Many nurses who take on locum work enjoy the feeling of continually adding to their medical skills. Another benefit is gaining valuable experience from a range of teams and specialties that you may otherwise not have a chance to interact with. Making a real difference to patient care while meeting skill shortages can be incredibly rewarding, too.

Be Your Own PA

The freedom and flexibility of locum nursing can lead to a more unpredictable timetable. Poor planning or overbooking is a pitfall that should be avoided at all costs as it can lead to workplace fatigue. If you are working with a locum agency, they’ll be able to manage your timetable for you making sure you have work when you want it, and days off when you need them!

Before blindly accepting every offer, make sure you weigh up the priorities and responsibilities for your workload. Don’t be afraid to take days off from work and make time for other commitments, too, like enjoying a meal with family or going out for coffee with friends.

It’s important to honestly assess your risk of fatigue and avoid getting to the stage where it impacts your ability to provide patient care.

Set Your Expectations

Communication is the name of the game when it comes to getting the most out of your locum role. setting appropriate expectations. By voicing your concerns, ambitions and expectations upfront to your recruiter, they will be able to find the best possible opportunities for your needs.

Take Care of Number One

When you work in an industry that revolves around caring for others, it can be difficult to find time to look after your own wellbeing. Locum nurses certainly aren’t exempt from the compassion fatigue, burnout and secondary trauma that can be associated with caring professions.

Practising self-care will improve how you feel, both physically and mentally. Check out our guide on mental health best practices for nurses for more tips.

Find Your Next Step

If you’re considering a shift to locum nursing or are looking for a new opportunity, reach out to the team at WESolutions. As a leading locum nurse recruitment agency with over 15 years of experience placing nurses into the top UK healthcare organisations, we would love to talk to you about how you can advance your locum nursing career. Get in touch with us today.