• 10 November 2021
  • 7 min read

What You Need To Know Before Becoming A Locum Mental Health Nurse

  • Staurt Sorensen
    Locum Mental Health
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Richard Gill
    • Mat Martin
  • 0
  • 417
Play video: "There are downsides to being a Locum but oh, I promise you. It's fascinating! I cannot recommend Locuming enough..."

Locum Mental Health Nurse, Stuart, offers his insights into the role of a Locum, explaining challenges of Locum work, as well as why it’s so rewarding.

Topics covered in this article

Introduction

My Role As A Locum Mental Health Nurse

No One Pays You For Not Turning Up

Different Trusts Have Different Systems & Cultures

Tax, Training & Expenses

Being A Locum Is Fascinating

Introduction

Hello, my name's Stuart Sorensen.

I'm a Mental Health Nurse and trainer.

I've been a Mental Health Nurse since 1995 when I first qualified.

Since that time I've worked in acute admission, I've worked in recovery units, and also worked for drug and alcohol rehab services.

I've worked in elderly care.

I've been a jobbing community psychiatric nurse and I've worked in quality control as well as taken leadership of various teams, either clinically or operationally.

I'm also a trainer and I've spent a lot of my time traveling around the country, talking to people who work either in mental health or in social care about issues relating to mental health care and various aspects of social care law, so you might say I've been around a bit.

And out of all of the things that I've done, what I love best is what I do now and have done for the last seven years because in 2014, I decided to leave my home area of Cumbria and branch out a bit in an agency capacity.

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My Role As A Locum Mental Health Nurse

So I now work as a Locum Mental Health Nurse, which means I take temporary contracts, anything from three months to, I think my longest contract was a little over two years, working in various units to fill staff shortages up and down the country.

I've worked in my native Cumbria. I've worked in North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, and the city of Oxford now about for seven years.

In that time, I have encountered so many truly gifted, dedicated, and knowledgeable staff that my personal development as a nurse has rocketed way beyond anything I would have expected if I'd stayed in one place.

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I've also met and nursed patients from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, and learned about those different approaches to life and ways of life and ways of understanding the world that, again, I would never have come across had I stayed in one place.

I can't tell you how much I have learned.

I've also seen large parts of the country.

And as I say, I have some friends all across the country now that I don't think those friendships will ever disappear.

So, I can recommend becoming a Locum. Absolutely!

No One Pays You For Not Turning Up

However, there are a few things you'd need to know if you're considering doing what I do.

First of all, you won't be able to take very many sick days.

If you're one of those people who takes time off when they're feeling a little under the weather, Locuming is not for you.

No one pays you for not turning up.

You're paid by the hour for the hours that you work.

If you're going to take time off sick, well, okay, if you have to, you have to.

But be aware that statutory sick pay is not going to pay your mortgage or your rent.

It certainly won't pay your mortgage and feed you and your family, so you need to be aware of that.

Different Trusts Have Different Systems & Cultures

You also need to understand that as a Locum, you will be faced with regular changes to computer systems and the way the different trusts take notes, different trust operational systems, and the nuances that develop in region to region.

You won't be able to do in one placement what you did in the last.

Different trusts have different cultures and what's acceptable practice in one place may actually be seen as totally unacceptable in another, so you need to be a quick learner.

Tax, Training & Expenses

You also need to be able to source your own training for revalidation because not every trust will do that for you.

That can be expensive and time-consuming but it's worth it because that's what you need to do to continue being a Locum.

And I promise you, Locuming is extremely rewarding professionally and in terms of self-development.

You also, if you're like me and travel around, you'll need to be able to afford and pay for your own travel and accommodation.

Trusts won't do it and not every umbrella company will allow you to claim it back out of tax.

There are some umbrella companies who do and it's worth shopping around.

You will almost certainly need an umbrella company by the way, particularly if you're working in the NHS.

Shop around.

I don't think I'm able to recommend any but what you really need to know are their policies around sickness and their policies around what you can and cannot claim because if you're not able to claim anything, it doesn't matter how good Locum wages look before you become a Locum.

You very quickly realise just how expensive it is to maintain this lifestyle.

You need the ability to claim some of those legitimate working expenses back against tax.

Being A Locum Is Fascinating

So, there are downsides to being a Locum but oh, I promise you. It's fascinating!

I cannot recommend Locuming enough but you have to be able to hit the ground running.

You are expected to be at least as good as the majority of the stuff that you work with and ideally better than many.

If you're not, well, what's the point in having you?

If you can deal with all of that, I promise you though, the rewards are just wonderful.

There's an expression I learned when I lived in Lincolnshire that I think is entirely appropriate for Locuming.

It's this:

"It's a great life, if you don't weaken."

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Do you have any questions for Stuart?

Ask your questions below

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About the author

  • Staurt Sorensen
    Locum Mental Health

Stuart first got into care aged 16, volunteering at a senior citizens’ day centre. A period of homelessness whilst looking for work brought him to a YMCA hostel where he first encountered serious mental disorder. Subsequent support worker jobs led him to begin mental health nurse training, qualifying in 1995. Stuart currently works as a Band 6 (Locum) and also devises and delivers training on mental health, social care and some aspects of related legislation.

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  • Staurt Sorensen
    Locum Mental Health

About the author

  • Staurt Sorensen
    Locum Mental Health

Stuart first got into care aged 16, volunteering at a senior citizens’ day centre. A period of homelessness whilst looking for work brought him to a YMCA hostel where he first encountered serious mental disorder. Subsequent support worker jobs led him to begin mental health nurse training, qualifying in 1995. Stuart currently works as a Band 6 (Locum) and also devises and delivers training on mental health, social care and some aspects of related legislation.

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