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Many doctors are drawn to the opportunities that locum placements bring, but what exactly are the benefits and challenges of working as a locum doctor in New Zealand?

“Locum” physicians are those who work as a temporary doctor, filling in for other doctors who are absent or unavailable. A “lifestyle locum” is someone who only works as a locum, i.e. a doctor who does not also work as an employee. 

Different doctors are drawn to locum work for different reasons.

Some of the common reasons for working as a locum doctor in New Zealand are listed below:

  1. Flexibility: One of the biggest benefits of working as a locum physician is the flexibility it offers. You can choose the location, schedule, and type of work that suits you best. This can be particularly appealing for doctors who want to travel, work part-time, or try out different types of healthcare settings. 
  2. Variety of experiences: As a locum doctor, you have the opportunity to work with a variety of clinics and healthcare teams. This allows you to gain a wide range of experience and to develop a broad skill set. Having locum experience can help a doctor decide which type of clinic they prefer to work in, before commiting to a permanent role.
  3. Professional development: Working as a locum physician can also provide opportunities for professional development, such as learning new medical procedures, gaining experience with different electronic medical record systems, and working with diverse patient populations.
  4. Opportunity to contribute: Many locum doctors are motivated by the opportunity to contribute to a clinic, and a community, in need. Using your skill set and experience to step in at a time of need can be an extremely rewarding experience. 
  5. Competitive pay: Locum physicians typically earn a higher hourly rate than full-time physicians due to the short-term nature of the work. This can be a significant advantage for doctors who are looking to supplement their income, and those who want to combine travel with work. 
  6. Inclusive package: Most locum placements include accommodation for the duration of the placement, flight costs, and car hire or fuel reimbursement. 

While locum work has its advantages, it is not for everyone. Locum work can be unpredictable and demanding. Different practices operate in different ways so it can take a few days to get into your flow. As a locum, you will not have a preexisting relationship with your patients which means that your efficiency may be less than if you have knowledge of your patients background. 

Steps to become a locum doctor in New Zealand

If, after considering the benefits and challenges of locum work, you decide that are interested in working as a locum doctor in New Zealand, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Obtain full registration with the Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ): It is important to note that doctors in New Zealand can only work on locum placements if they have progressed from provisional registration to full registration. This is applicable for both general and vocational scopes of practice. All international medical graduates (IMGs), regardless of level of experience and seniority, will initially be granted provisional registration before being able to apply for full registration after a period of supervision that lasts a minimum of 6 months. As soon as full registration is obtained with the MCNZ, a doctor may choose to work as a locum.
  2. Research locum agencies: There are many locum physician agencies that can help connect you with job opportunities but it is important to find one that will take the time to ensure that your needs are met. Agencies that take the time to get to know you are more likely to match you with a placement that fulfils both your personal and professional needs. Be sure that your recruitment agent asks why you are interested in locuming, as this will influence the placements that you are matched with. Your locum agency should determine:
    – Are you looking to explore a new area of NZ
    – Are you looking for clinical advancement?
    – Are you looking for high remuneration
    – Are you wanting to trial a practice before a permanent placement?
    Being clear in your mind about what you want to achieve from each placement will help your agent match you with a role that meets your needs.
  3. Have your documentation ready to go: As a minimum, you will need to present the following documents before undertaking a locum placement:
    – Annual practising certificate (APC)
    – Medical indemnity insurance certificate
    – 2 references or names of 2 referees
    – Police clearance certificate (your agency will be able to obtain this on your behalf if you do not have one that is up to date)
    – Covid-19 vaccination certificate
  1. Be flexible: Finally, be prepared to be flexible and adaptable. Locum physician work can be unpredictable, and you may need to be willing to travel or work in different settings to secure opportunities.
  2. Be clear on your parameters: From the outset, be clear on your musts and must nots. Consider things such as:
  • Are you prepared to work overtime
  • Are you prepared to work on-call
  • Are you open to telehealth
  • Are there procedures that you are not willing to perform
  • How long should your lunch break be
  • How many sessions per week are you happy to work
  • Do you have any specific accommodation requirements such as a full kitchen and laundry
  • What is your maximum commute time from accommodation to clinic

Working as a locum doctor in NZ offers an incredible opportunity for those who feel drawn to this type of placement. Managed well, locum work is an excellent lifestyle choice for doctors who are eager to explore new parts of New Zealand and who want more autonomy in their working life. 

If you would like to have a confidential discussion about working as a locum in New Zealand, reach out to our team today on  

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