How long have you been an RVN and what have you enjoyed most about the role?
I have been an RVN for six years and the thing I enjoy most about being a veterinary nurse is the diversity available in our career. During the past six years, I have worked in emergency and critical care, referral, wildlife rescue and charity, as well as general practice. A new challenge is always there if you look for it. Particularly as a nurse, I enjoy the important role we can play in client education and welfare, with welfare (in the UK and abroad) being the main area I would like to focus my career on in the future.
What led you to decide to become a locum VN?
I originally became a locum after feeling very unhappy in a permanent position and was unsure whether I wanted to stay in the profession. I struggled to find somewhere that could offer the right work-life balance for me. I love to travel, and becoming a locum offered me the best of both worlds. It has given me the opportunity to earn money and enhance my career, as well as the availability to travel more frequently than the “normal” allocated holiday allowance.
What are the advantages of choosing locum work, do you think, and what would you advise anyone considering making the move?
Aside from a better work-life balance, meeting all the different people. I would say I have learned more in the past two years of being a locum than in my previous years in practice. It gives you the opportunity to learn different ways of doing things and, in turn, enhance your skills. Becoming a locum has made me more confident as a nurse, as well as in myself. I have also learned a ton of new skills, such as the wonderful world of tax returns. My advice for anyone considering locum work is to think about the type of person you are before you make the jump. You need to be flexible and open to change. You need to be able to quickly slot into an already formed team. Locum work is great for some people, but it may not be for people who perhaps enjoy stability and routine.
Do you work for one practice or several, in the main, and do you have many periods when you are not working?
When I first became a locum I worked at many practices for short stints, but, as time went on, I began to just cover at practices I really enjoyed being at. I have been lucky in that enough work has always been available between these practices. I still cover odd shifts at new practices, but, on the whole, it will be a practice I have worked at before where they have a great team and high standards. I have been lucky enough in that I have never struggled to find work. The earlier months of the year can sometimes be quieter as people are not away as much, but, generally, I have never had an issue. During the quieter periods, though, you need to be flexible and, at times, willing to travel further for work than you normally would. Alternatively, an option is to work more frequently during the busier months and use the quieter months as your downtime or time off. I know many locums who consistently work solidly for a few months, then take a few weeks or months off afterwards – a perk of being a locum is you can choose your own schedule.
Has being a locum brought any downsides, or have some aspects not appealed so much? How easy/difficult/stressful is it to find positions, and would anything make the process easier?
With every job there will always be a downside, but, for me, the good always outweighs the bad. One downside of being a locum is you are generally always looking for your next placement. I try to plan at least six weeks ahead, so work is always lined up. Another I find, especially as a nurse, is you do not have as much input as you would in a permanent job. A great locum practice will listen and embrace your opinions, but, ultimately, you have to accept every practice does things differently, which is why it is important to be adaptable. However, on the flip side of this, if you are really not enjoying work at a certain practice you can move on to another much more easily than if it was your permanent job. As I previously mentioned, I have always been lucky finding placements. One tip I have is to network and let people know you are working as a locum. It is a very small industry – if you are a good, reliable locum, people will recommend you and you’ll not be short of work.