It’s just a word isn’t it…just. Yet it can have such a derisory tone. For instance – once of the receptionists looks at me admiringly and asks another one who that handsome fellow is, and the reply “it’s the locum” as she shares the admiring glances of her colleague is quite matter of fact. But add a little word in, “it’s just the locum,” and suddenly there is a whole different tone; implying that I am somewhere below the medical student in the practice when it comes to the pecking order of the hen house. I am certainly not a worthy rooster to be admiring.
Patients use it too, although I hear it less from them. Usually it’s “Are you the new doctor?” which I take as a compliment both of my youthful good looks and my slick modern medicine* But when it comes to more difficult patients wanting something I don’t want to give, then it oft turns into “you’re just the locum”, or in other words, they think I am useless for not giving them what they want
Perhaps I am over-sensitive. Perhaps as a locum I feel I am on the defensive, aware that to many, the option to be a locum is seen as an option taken not out of choice, but out of lack of choice. In much the say way as GPs were perceived twenty years ago as second rate doctors by those in medical schools, even though 70% percent of us were destined to become one. It may not have been the precise words that only the best 30 percent will succeed as hospital doctors, but it was certainly the sentiment handed down to us.
I choose to be a locum because that is what I like doing; I like seeing patients (mostly) and dislike meetings, naval gazing, partnership bickering, practice politics, paperwork and monotony. Working as a locum brings with it many challenges, challenges which aren’t to everyone’s taste; be they clinical – in that you usually only see patients once, you don’t know them from previous encounters and you are judged solely on your performance that day – organisational, or financial. It is, in essence, a very unique subspecialty of General Practice that is easy to do, if not badly, then ineffectually but very difficult to do well. I guess that’s once of the good things about the NASGP in that it represents not just (there’s that word again!) locum GPs, but it represents and stands for the fact that being a sessional GP is not just a stop gap, it is a career in itself.
Which brings me back to being “just” a locum; the phrase seems so, well, unjust!
* To any American readers, we call this sarcasm or irony and is not meant to be taken literally, but in fact quite the opposite