Living the locum lifestyle

What are the pros and cons of locum pharmacy work? AJP asks a recruitment expert…

Locum pharmacists are those who work in the place of a regular pharmacist when they are absent.

These roles are made available all across Australia, with some locums choosing this type of work almost as a lifestyle, because it allows them to experience pharmacy in different settings.

Raven’s Recruitment, which has recently released its ‘Locum Induction Pack 2019’ to help pharmacists interested in the field, says locum work is a popular path for a lot of pharmacists for several reasons.

Heidi Dariz, General Manager at Raven’s Recruitment, explains the main benefits in choosing to locum are:

  • Freedom: Travel to some fantastic places all over Australia while getting paid, as well as having your accommodation and travel paid for.
  • Flexibility: Choose when and where you work, taking breaks for study, volunteering or travel whenever you like.
  • Variety: Experience many different learning environments and scenarios, increasing your knowledge and skills more than being in the one place.

“If you then do decide to take a permanent role later on, you are more sought after as an employee due to having had this variety, but also you tend to be a lot more confident in knowing what type of role and pharmacy you want to work in and which you don’t,” Ms Dariz tells AJP.

When it comes to the challenges of locum work, she says: “Probably the most challenging thing about locuming is the ability to be adaptable and comfortable in new or unfamiliar environments.

“You are constantly working in different pharmacies, with different processes, different customers and staff, and need to be flexible and able to fit in with these. It can also be challenging if you feel that things could be improved or run differently, but as a locum you don’t have the same input you would have as a permanent full-time employee.

“Another challenge if you are constantly working away rural or remote is missing friends and family – although keeping in touch is less of an issue these days with Skype, etc.”

In an previous interview with AJP , locum pharmacist Luke Vrankovich shared his experiences in detail, explaining that he loves locuming but “it’s not for everyone”.

“I spent three months living out of a 15kg suitcase and that was interesting because all I had with me was my footy and my clothes and my music speaker,” he said.

“You don’t have your close friends around all the time, so you have to form those really good relationships over social media. So one thing that it’s taught me is to actually communicate via distance with all my friends and family.

“Initially what I didn’t like about locuming was that I didn’t really get to get hands on with managing, because I had the idea of eventually owning a pharmacy. But I’ve managed to swing a couple of locum stints where I was actually managing and they ended up being a bit longer,” said Mr Vrankovich.

“I chose pharmacy because science was my passion as well as helping people… and to be honest, looking back, the ability to travel was also a factor.”

Raven’s Recruitment shares some top tips for locum pharmacists in managing their career:

  1. Have a diary. Prevent the embarrassment of double booking yourself and have a diary to keep track of the dates and locations you have been booked into.
  2. Communication. It won’t take you long in the locum game to realise prompt response = jobs.
  3. Flexibility. Being flexible with your availability and locations you are willing to travel to will drastically increase the amount of locum work you find yourself booked in to.
  4. Build trust. As a locum, your brand and reputation is built on a foundation of trust and you following through on your commitment.
  5. A+ attitude. Whether you are working as a locum or a permanent staff member, you should always take pride in the work you do and give 100%.

Ms Dariz says that while NSW, VIC and QLD all have higher numbers of registered pharmacists – and hence higher numbers of locums – there isn’t one state or territory that is leading in terms of higher numbers of locums. 

“We do see seasonal trends – we see more locums wanting to go to Queensland and Northern Territory in winter and Victoria and Tasmania in summer, but at any one time we will have locum roles available in every state and territory.”

See Raven’s Recruitment for more information and to download the Locum Induction Pack 2019.

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    Life as a locum outside the major cities is pretty average actually. Don’t expect to put up anywhere exceptional these days – many locums that go to regional/rural areas I’ve talked to are lucky to get a place that is cockroach free! Ask to see photos first. Ensure high-speed internet access is paid. You’re gonna need it! Accomodation aside, life in regional/rural areas is excruiatingly boring and limited on your days off. You’ll soon learn why most of Australia’s population is concentrated in major cities. Returning to civilisation and friends is always a delight!

    • Karalyn Huxhagen

      There are certainly bad jobs and bad payers. The latter does my head in. In general I think the personality of the pharmacist is important. To walk into a pharmacy where everyone was terminated two weeks before and be told you are providing MPS rolls and webster packs for 60 people and your one and only casual who started two weeks ago only works 9-2 is probably the worst I have encountered. The great ones have been the communities where you are IT. apart from the ambulance driver and the community nurse there is no other health professional in town. The pharmacist left me a wonderful town, a beautiful house and welcoming people. every night I went for a long walk to enjoy the magic of the sunsets over the desert. Suddenly I was the mother figure to a group of students from the Ag college who were on work experience , the grey nomads visited every day from their free camping sites and the locals brought me jams, pickles and stories. I locum in a diversity of areas around Aus and I try to see as much of the local area while I am in town. I love it and wish I could do more. Certainly pays way better than 20 x HMRs a month

  2. fiquet

    Loved locuming and discovering regional Australian areas… and also learning heaps on the job !!

  3. Kristine Hall

    Locum work is a great opportunity to be exposed to different systems, processes and franchise models. It will prepare you well if you want to later manage or own a pharmacy where you can cherry pick from your experience. It is however peripatetic work with little certainty and is stressful when not supported by adept staff. Locum pay of $35 to $50 per hour is low when compared to other professions (relief teaching pays around $48-$98 per hour).


      Agree locum pay is too low esp. for some of the isolated places you’re expected to go! For those that have made their money and are semi-retired, locuming can be good to top up income derived from other investments and to keep your hand in the game so-to-speak. I know of a few persons like this in their 30’s that made their $$$ when the profession was a proper cash cow are very fortunate to be in such a position to semi-retire. I think for such individuals cherry-picking locum-locations in decent areas of Australia would be perfect.

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