So you have your first day of locuming booked. Now what? While all practices differ, here is my top ten day-one essential checklist to get you thinking. I am new to locuming and don’t do many shifts, so if you have comments or suggestions about what you read or what you think should be on this list, feel free to comment below. It will help me and many others. #bettertogether.

  1. Professional indemnity insurance is a must. Whilst we hope it will not be needed, it is reassuring to know it is there. The most well known provider is the VDS who cover around 20,000 vets in practice, but others do exist. Some practices will add you to their cover, especially if you carry out regular work. I strongly advise a phone call to the VDS (or other provider) to make sure you know what that means. Check if you are named on the policy, and seek advice on what, and when, cover is provided. I opted to have my own personal cover, which saves the hassle of checking with every practice, and prevents the risk of any unintentional gaps in cover.
  2. A payment method needs to be in place as I touched on in my last blog, Locuming: Taking the ruff with the smooth. Consider how much you need to set aside for things like your pension, CPD, and holiday pay. A financial advisor is ideal to help guide you through these decisions and you may also need an accountant.
  3. A recording system is essential for recording planned work, hours worked, and expenses if applicable. If you are not the organised type, then now is the time to learn that skill.
  4. Choosing my own uniform and name badge was a first for me, and something I enjoyed more than I should have. It seemed symbolic in a way, this freedom to express my own personality and brand. It may be the first thing people notice, and a smart and professional appearance is important to me. I am told that if you locum through a limited company, having your own uniform rather than wearing a company one may help reduce IR35 risk. Please speak to an accountant or tax-law specialist about IR35. It is a complex issue, and because I have not set up a limited company, something I have not yet had to consider.
  5. Do you know the practice essentials? Establishing a contact and exchanging some details before the day helps day one run more smoothly. Do you need login credentials? Can you access the controlled drug cabinet? Is there a practice protocol book? A price list for you to use? How does out-of-hours provision work? Some practices will have a system for communicating the things you need to know, but it’s best not to wait until the day to find out, especially if you will be in a sole-charge role. A senior point of contact is useful for those unpredictable scenarios that may come your way.
  6. What do you need in your pocket to survive a day in practice? This may sound obvious right? It takes a time to locate items in a new place, or the right people to ask. It helps me to have my own essentials on my person: pocket notebook, pocket calculator, scissors, pill-giver, pens, fob watch, and of course a stethoscope. Check with individual practices about dose-meters, or ideally buy your own so you have your own personal record.
  7. Formularies and essential reference books. Many practices will have a library, but it may help to have things at your fingertips, so you to hit the ground running rather than spending time rummaging through drawers. Now I use the online BSAVA small animal formulary/exotics formulary, procedures book, and the toxin database. It is free to members and saves carrying a ton of books around.
  8. Plenty of food. I apologise for the simplicity of this addition. As obvious as it is, it had to have a place on a list of essentials. Each practice has a different attitude to breaks, and there may be no nearby shops if you do get a break. I lose focus on an empty stomach, and need regular feeding, so I always make sure to take plenty of supplies, and of course my own tea-mug.
  9. A good attitude. You are often there in response to a temporary, or long-term lack of permanent vets. You ARE the reinforcements. On paper your basic role is to fill a void, but wouldn’t it be great if you left somewhere, or someone a little brighter than when you arrived. It’s cheesy but true: passion and positivity are infectious, and behaviours are naturally mirrored. Nobody can be cheerful all the time, but being friendly and approachable goes a long way. If all you do is make someone a fantastic brew, I am sure it will be appreciated. All practices do things differently so you will need to develop clinical flexibility, and remain open to new ways of working.
  10. Consider your ‘brand’. Until recently I had only ever been an employee, representing an organisation. As a locum YOU are the only face of your business. Everything you do speaks volumes about who you are, and what your business is about. You probably have a professional personality, but now you have a ‘brand’. How do you want to be seen? How do you want to be remembered? Giving some thought about what you want your ‘brand’ to stand for before you start, is essential. Be professional, be courteous and be reliable as a minimum. You have the freedom to play with the rest. Many locums use their own contract covering things such as cancellation, fees, public liability, and other individual specifics. Speak to Ben at simply locums and he may be able to give more guidance, or know someone who can.

To be entrusted with this role of responsibility is a privilege and an honour but it can also be very rewarding so remember to relax and try and enjoy it. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. If you have any comments on this, or any of my blogs, please comment below or contact Ben at

Happy locuming …..