What seeing a Locum doctor means for a patient
I have had very few bad experiences with Locum doctors and the Locum nurses have been some of the absolute best people I have ever met. They have all been knowledgeable, caring and exceptionally good at their job. What they haven’t been is there over the long term. Living with multiple chronic illnesses means that I have the unfortunate privilege of seeking medical care more often than your average person.
I live in a rural part of northern Maine. Our local hospital has 25 staffed beds, and our local emergency room is staffed by traveling Locum doctors. The next closest hospital is 45 minutes away in good weather and over 90 minutes away in bad weather. That hospital also has an emergency room staffed mostly by Locum doctors and Locum nurses. Should I want to go to an emergency room staffed with doctors who both work and live in the area, I would have to travel over 120 miles from my home (one way).
Living rurally means that my Primary Care Physician usually changes every 18-24 months because the staff changes. My specialists change out every 2-3 years and sometimes more frequently than that. While one office is waiting for a new specialist to move in, I go on a waiting list for another office hours away. This does not always guarantee continuity of care, or that I can get seen in an emergency.
As you will read in the upcoming issue of Physician Outlook Magazine, invisible illnesses often take the backseat in patient care. Having a primary care doctor who is with you for the long haul is important. Having a specialist who sees you year after year and gets to know the ups and downs of your disease makes a huge difference. Locum doctors are exceptional at what they do, but if you are a patient in an area with locum doctors, you will have to get really good at advocating for yourself.