There comes a point in some people’s lives where they entertain the idea of going back to study. This might be to further their current career, or could be to change career altogether. Sadly, for a lot of people the idea of studying is just a pipe dream as they cannot afford to give up their wage in order to become a student again.

The good news for doctors is that you don’t have to give up one to have the other. The best option for doctors considering going back to studying is to become a locum doctor.

Locuming means taking on jobs on a more casual basis, such as part time or project based. This gives each person the flexibility to build study and class time into their schedule, while still bringing in money to live off. If organised well, the locum could even schedule their work so that they have plenty of time off at exam time each semester.

To take your first steps into the locuming world, the best thing you can do is find representation. Come in and have a chat with a reputable agency like Best Practice Medical. You can be completely honest about what it is you are looking for and what will work for you in terms of flexibility around your studies. Then you can concentrate on enrolling into the right course while the agency does the work of finding a placement for you.

Here are some further tips on getting back into study:

Find the right course

You might have a vague idea of what you would like to study or where you’d like your career to take you, but it pays off to really research all of the course options out there before enrolling in one. Take a close look at the units that make up the course and see if there is much overlap with the initial studies you took to become a doctor in the first place. You don’t want to spend too much time going over curriculum you already know.

Double check that the course you are interested in will actually qualify you to work in whichever field it is you are trying to break into.

Finally, you need to make a decision about whether to study online or in a physical classroom. There are pros and cons to both and it mostly comes down to each individual’s preference. Online study is more flexible, meaning you can complete the units and modules at a time that suits you (except for online tutorials that you may have to attend). This is great if you are continuing your locuming work and need to work around those commitments. However, some people find that learning in a classroom setting is much more enjoyable and they are more likely to absorb the material when it is being taught in a lecture hall. Being in a classroom also helps evade distractions of home such as family life, cleaning or even the internet! The downside is that it means you are tied to a physical location so cannot follow locum jobs to places too far away while you are studying.

Set a study timetable

Anyone who has already completed intensive study such as a medical degree will already be on board with how important it is to have a study timetable in place. But once you have started work, this will change slightly from when you were a full time student.

A study timetable will be imperative to your success when you also need to schedule in your work hours. It’s amazing how easy it is to get to the end of the working week and realise you haven’t managed time for study if it isn’t part of your schedule. Sit down and work out a study timetable at the start of every week, month or semester (whichever one works for you), and be sure to include your work hours in there. The timetable will need to be flexible depending on what you decide to do with your locuming work. If you take on a long-term locum position you will have more of an idea of what work you have coming up, but if you take on different jobs week by week you will need to revise the timetable each time you get your new work schedule.

Only bite off what you can chew

Although it may be tempting to get through the course quickly so you can be fully qualified faster, it is actually a better idea to take it easy. Don’t overload your course schedule or you will find yourself stressed, frantic and not learning or absorbing as much as you normally would. If you take your time with your class schedule and only take on a bit of study at a time, you will be able to really concentrate on what you’re learning and will get more out of the course.

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