Working as a general practitioner (GP) in Ireland can be a rewarding career choice, and working as a locum GP is also an attractive option for many in Ireland. The demand for doctors is high.

However, before deciding to go ahead with such work, it’s essential to know what’s involved. Read on to find out about the pros and cons of locum GP work in Ireland.

What’s a Locum GP?

It’s a GP that is working in a temporary post. It’s that simple. Doctors who become contract GPs come from all walks of life. Perhaps you have been in the same job for a long time and want to try a different path or work location.

Maybe you are returning to work after a career break and want to test the water before diving right in, or you’re approaching retirement age and want to continue working without the responsibility of running a full-time practice.

If you’re a non-EU/EEA citizen, apply for a work permit or visa. You can arrange this after you’re offered work.

Before starting work as a locum GP, it’s worth noting that all doctors working in Ireland must be legally permitted to do so. This means being a member of the Medical Council’s Register of Medical Practitioners.

Whatever your reasons for considering locum GP work, there are several positives and negatives to know of before taking that first step.

As a locum GP, you are still an integral part of any practice, and as a GP will often be the first person a patient sees when they are unwell.

You’ll still be responsible for sometimes referring your patients to specialists or hospital consultants if needed.

The Pros

First, let’s look at some perks of being a locum GP. It might surprise you how many advantages there are.

Pay

The pay is good from the start. You’re paid a day rate agreed ahead of the locum. You are then also paid for any extra work (call or after hours) with an hourly rate, so if you work a longer than anticipated, you’re still paid.

Also while you’re on call you’re paid too. This is especially advantageous if you’re relatively new to medicine. Rates are usually negotiable. Also, you have no overheads to worry about, unlike GPs who run their own practices.

Freedom

You can’t put a price on this. You can choose when you work and how often and where. If you’re going to move around, locum GP work is one way of doing this.

Alternatively, you may want to stay put if you live in a town or city large enough to offer enough contract GP opportunities.

Working as a locum GP can mean a much better work-life balance, greater career flexibility, and be more fulfilling because you are exposed to a broader range of patient cases.

If you have a young family, you may be able to fit your working hours around childcare and school times.

You can also choose when you take time off and, if you aren’t enjoying a particular contract position, you don’t have to accept further work there.

Paperwork

The bane of many a health professional. As a locum GP, you won’t have anywhere near as much administrative work as a partner in a GP practice or as a traditional GP.

Benefits

By this, we mean that you get to choose which benefits you want to pay into and which you don’t.

Water Cooler Politics

As a locum GP, you may typically be working in practice for a defined period of time. You may be there covering until a permanent position is filled, for example.

As a short term GP, you are potentially less likely to get involved in practice meetings and any potential tensions and office politics.

Flexibility

If the practice you’re contracting at likes your work and patients are happy too, they may well be more accommodating if, for example, you need time off for family reasons and/or a holiday.

They’ll be keener to hang onto a professional and highly competent locum GP than face having to find someone to replace you.

Employment Opportunities

It’s possible that if your ultimate aim is to secure a permanent GP position at a practice in a location of your choosing, by getting a foot in the door as a locum GP, you are better placed to apply for a permanent role if one becomes available.

You may also find that your contract is extended if the recruitment needs of the practice change.

The Cons

But, there are also a few disadvantages to consider. So, here are some main drawbacks to becoming a locum GP.

Pay

We’ve said the payment is good. That’s true, but if you’re a medical professional who’s worked for a long time, it may work out less, especially if you’re in private practice or have previously held a partnership position.

Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that when you aren’t working, you aren’t earning. This may make it more challenging to plan for your financial future.

Freedom

It’s great, but it’s not stable work. You can’t always depend upon it and will have to factor in for quieter periods too. This may suit your lifestyle and current needs, but it can be harder to plan for your financial future without guaranteed work.

Unfamiliarity

You don’t get to build long term relationships with your patients and their medical history. This can be frustrating for you and your patients who may often prefer to seek out a GP who is familiar with their needs.

It can also be stressful for the GP who has to spend more time reading patients’ notes before each consultation.

Perception

We’ve touched on this already, that patients can sometimes be reluctant to see a locum GP they are unfamiliar with.

However, recent research indicates that the perception of locum doctors can be and are sometimes harmful in terms of continuity of patient care, cost, and patient safety.

Motivation

As a contractor, it can be challenging to stay motivated in your work if you feel that you are less invested in the organisation.

It’s essential you’re self-motivated and independent when undertaking contract work. It’s worth also reminding yourself of all the positives surrounding contract work.

You’re a Short-Timer

If you’ve worked in a GP practice for a long time, it may be hard for you to adapt to a different way of working, especially if you are slotting into a GP practice for a shorter period.

If you’re used to being in charge and are now a locum GP, you may well feel the loss of status and gravitas that came with your former position.

Remember, your new colleagues may not necessarily be interested in what you did before you began working with them and may not always welcome or need your input.

You may see the solution to a particular work problem straight away; you may find it frustrating your input isn’t sought.

Work Culture

while you’re less involved in office politics, as a newbie and temporary member of staff, you are not always part of the social life of the practice, and you may feel excluded from an existing and tight social network.

However, it’s also true that the more you try to fit in, the better you’ll feel.

Benefits

You don’t get the same benefits as salaried GPs get. This means that you have to take that into account and allow money to be put aside for your pension and insurance, for example.

You also don’t get sick pay or automatic pay increases or redundancy pay.

Travel

Unless you are independent and/or have a partner who is willing to relocate, you may have to show flexibility about where you work. You may have to take into account the longer travelling time that comes with a contract position.

Are You Still Considering Becoming a Locum GP?

Working as a locum GP can offer you great freedom, adaptability, career choice, and adventure. It’s not for everyone, but it’s an attractive option for many.

Hopefully, you feel a bit better informed about locum GP work. There are lots of other useful blog posts that may help you in your career search.

If you feel ready to look at the types of jobs available, take a look at all the medical jobs available on our site now. Or contact the Med Doc team today on +353 1 9011306 or email us gp@meddoc.ie.