Your first stayaway – what to expect and how to handle it like a boss

This article was written by Nicholas Colwyn Parry, a locum pharmacist working across the UK, and a subscriber to the My Locum Choice Software.

So, it’s your first locum stayaway. You’ve packed, you’ve booked accommodation and shifts, you’ve checked your car over twice and you’re about to head down the M6. This road is the bane of my life but with a bit of preparation you can make it an easy journey. Common sense says avoid rush hour, but the reality is the roads start getting busy from 3pm onwards, especially when travelling south. Of course, this is all dependent on where you are traveling from and to, I live on the Wirral and mainly work in the south west so for me it makes a huge difference. No one likes being sat in the “west midlands car park” for hours.

Beautiful views on the English coast

These drives are actual invaluable thinking time for me, I really appreciate them as it is one of the only times I am not distracted by people talking, the phone ringing, or messages coming up. It really allows me to immerse myself in my own thoughts, digest anything that has happened recently and prepare for the next steps! Personally, I occupy my time with self-reflection, Audible and Spotify (I’d say a good 90% of this is George Michael god rest his soul, 4 years on Christmas). Everyone is different but whatever occupies you mentally for 5 hours and allows you to focus on driving then do that!

We live in a beautiful country and it’s important to appreciate that on your drive, take regular stops and even detour to places you wouldn’t normally see! I sometimes stop off to catch up with friends (pre-covid), visit interesting places like Stonehenge to break up the drive and ALWAYS stop for food. If you do this often you will learn so much and more importantly which services you should stop at, and when you should keep driving. Saying that, Gloucester services is another world, it’s like built into the side of a hill and has a massive farmers market inside it complete with a butcher and everything!

Visit to Stonehenge

On arrival at your accommodation it’s always good to just check out where you’re staying on the way in. Clean room, house rules, nearby shops etc you know. You should have already mapped out the local amenities with google maps or something similar and it’s always good to drive around and get your bearings. This is usually when I recce my route to the pharmacy. You can’t always see that there are roads closed due to roadworks, floods or
other restrictions until you get there. Let someone who cares about you know that you arrived safe too, it’s always nice to keep in touch!

Once you’ve mastered the shower in the morning (you would not believe how many different ways there are to turn a shower on) and got yourself to work it’s pretty normal from there. As a pharmacist though your CPPE record should allow you to carry out almost every service and this is where it gets interesting. PGD’s vary massively from county to county, in Devon you can only do the morning after pill for free patients aged 13-24 but
pretty much everywhere else the age range is higher. When you are entering minor ailments for UTI’s you are expected to carry out urinalysis and there are different antibiotics recommended due to local antibiotic resistance. I find this part of my job challenging but enjoyable as it constantly has me looking in PGD’s, giving different doses to what I’m used to and being more clinical.

On that note, it is always good to ask the staff where the nearest referral units are. A&E might be an hour drive from some of the pharmacies in the SW, so there may be a smaller more convenient walk in unit nearby. Remember signposting is an essential service to be carried out by pharmacy contractors so don’t just assume A&E is nearby or 24 hours because it might not be, and you need to be able to accurately signpost.

When you are there remember to make a lasting impression! Ask where the NMS folder is and call them, find MUR’s, carry out the CD balance and just make your mark. A lot of pharmacies in remote areas do not have access to good quality pharmacists, plus if they like you, you will be asked back. You are a product, sell yourself, show them you are an asset to them and worth your rate. It appears there is an odd mentality regards to being paid appropriately within the profession regarding working as a locum, so there will be an entire blog on this soon!

Make sure you take a contact and leave yourself contactable, add yourself into the PMR, leave your number somewhere public or leave a business card! These are literally just a few tips to try and help you if you are considering the journey I have embarked on, but they also apply to anyone working anywhere in community pharmacy.

locum stayaway
Catching up with work by the seaside

Every evening you are away you can claim your evening meal as an expense, so try new places, try new foods, eat local and keep the receipts! You were only going to pay the taxman that money, so you may as well eat like a king whilst you’re away and minimise that tax bill!

Lastly, I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I cannot stress how important leaving a handover is. Leave a note, make sure you can leave a message with one of the staff that is working the next day there, or even ring the store. It’s just common courtesy so the next pharmacist doesn’t come in and have to pick up the pieces, then try to work out what needs immediate attention and what can be left for later.

So once you’ve finished and left a handover, it’s time to repeat paragraph 2 and 3 but in reverse and alas, you have completed your first locum stayaway!

Read more going on your first locum stayaway and about becoming a locum here.

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