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A Life of a Locum Doctor in a Global Pandemic

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The COVID pandemic has placed healthcare professionals under immense pressure, putting their physical and mental health at risk. Whilst many of us are urged to stay at home to help beat the coronavirus, healthcare professionals have a duty of care and have continued to work throughout this pandemic. To gain a better understanding of what life has been like as a locum during these times, I set up an interview with one of our very own, Locum Paediatric Consultant, Dr Ward.

How long have you been working as a Consultant Paediatrician and what attracted you to this specialty?

I qualified as a Paediatrician in 1986 and have working in the specialty for the past 30 years. I did Adult Medicine for about a year and a half and I went up the road to the Children’s Hospital and I was off! They say a specialty chooses you and I just found it extremely rewarding doing Children’s Medicine, although very hard at times but I enjoyed it. I came from a background of a lot of families who did Medicine and my second cousin was Professor of Paediatrics in Dublin, so I think it was also in the blood.


What made you decide to go down the locum route instead of perm?

That’s very easy, what it was in my career I ended up as the Designated Doctor for Safeguarding on the Isle of Man and when I took the job there, I’d been working in Morecombe Bay on courses and you may have realised Morecombe Bay had a lot of difficulties and so I jumped at the chance to go to the Isle of Man and then I realised it was very isolating being there. I kept my home in the Lake District which was great, so I could travel back home whenever I wanted to. The government then offered a scheme where you could retire at the post there, so I jumped at it. I came home and then suddenly within weeks, I realized I hadn’t quite wanted to retire yet. So North Cumbria (where I worked 20 years ago when I first came to the UK) were desperately looking for staff and the Paediatric Director rang me up and asked me if I would consider a locum position at the hospital helping out in the department. I was absolutely delighted and I’ve been working there as a locum now for the past 2 and a half years. Hopefully looking to retire in the next few years.


Working as a locum throughout this pandemic, how has your day-to-day work been impacted?

I was down in Huddersfield when the first lockdown occurred and I think initially, as we realised and the nation realised that this was very serious. So fear was one issue then there was the issue in relation to the PPE, then we were being told there was asymptomatic carriage. Even Doctors were in a lag phase because we were being told that it was just symptomatic contact for a period of time. We were working, as it were, in the dark and being 60, realizing I am mortal and so, a fear did come across and the need for children and the families was equally important. The thing that struck me so much is the barriers that are put up, for example, stillbirth occurs and it’s a very painful, poignant moment in the family’s lives but you’re there wearing masks and gowns and there’s no physical contact in this time of great loss for a family and those are the things that impact you emotionally and mentally after the event and trying to be there and be all things for everybody. If you look at the wards, there are no people wandering around the hospital, going to visit relatives like they would normally, so it’s eerily quiet on the corridors. It doesn’t mean the hospital is quiet in designated areas that are very busy, but the mainframe of the hospital is virtually absent from people. It’s quite isolating, even when you’re on duty, you could go to your room and you might not see anybody for the whole time.


How have you adapted with those changes?

To tell you the truth, I am from a background where you just get on with it. You have to rapidly learn to cope with situations because there just isn’t the time. You’ve got people at the other end, so you can’t be fussing, you have to just get on with it.


Do you think the healthcare sector will implement new technological changes as a result of this pandemic? And what does the future look like for you in terms of delivering care?

I can see now a future where health professionals really do a lot more of online communication with patients and colleagues than they’ve ever done before. Previously, if you were conference-calling, it was because of a complex case and you had to work regionally rather than locally. I think now, in the local environment, GP consultations and Consultant consultations will be enormous. The one thing they’re going to have to find a way of documenting a lot of what the conversations are doing. Yeah, I can see huge changes ahead of us.


What are your key takeaways from this pandemic?

Adaptability. You have to be very adaptable in this environment and you have to be very coordinated. I think team-working is also hugely important as you’re all working towards the same goal.


Despite all of the challenges, what has been the most rewarding thing about locum work this year?

Teamwork is the most rewarding thing because we are all in this together. Just because I am a locum, I’m no more less appreciated by my colleagues where I work.



Have you got any advice for locums or candidates considering a career in locuming?

The most important thing when considering a career in locumming, is that you’ve done preparatory work, in that you have a lot of the mandatory training under your belt.

If you're interested in locum work, get in touch with us today by registering here.