It’s all about the cash… or is it?

My contract at work fnished on the 18th of July. Not that you’d have known it, since I was there until the end of the day on the 20th and also went in to do more after an angsty first week off. The NHS Trust I was working for used to employ locums (contract workers) like me over the holidays to get their masses of paperwork done, as locums receive exactly the same workload as permanent staff members (who are able to work through the holidays to catch up on everything). Unfortunately because of the recent cuts to the NHS locums are no longer funded to do this and when the changes were introduced a bevy of locums ‘stood up and left’. Stories abound of locums having near panic-attacks trying to get everything finished or, doing as one lady did and simply thinking ‘fuck this’… walking away leaving huge amounts unfinished and unfuriating everyone. Not to mention putting their registration with the Health Professions Council at risk. Will they ever get employed by the NHS again? Probably not. I was their longest serving locum this year, lasting three school terms. Because it was the end of the UK school year, there was a far higher volume of paperwork to do than in previous terms and the lovely South African lady who was contracting alongside me was working long into the night and over entire weekends. I, on the other hand, could not manage such long hours at a desk and ended up working three (unpaid) days after my contract ended to get (almost) everything finished. Am I slightly bitter? Yes. Is there a healthy dose of self-loathing when I ponder my inefficiencies during the term? Yes, but if I had done things differently it only would have only meant that I had to work an extra two days instead of three.

Anyway, that’s the long and short of it. I’m currently trying to find another contract to start in September and have registered with another agency to increase my options. I have been offered the same NHS contract that I just whinged about and have managed to negotiate a higher rate of pay (from the pockets of my agency, not the NHS Trust), however I am not sure if I will sign it. If I can find another, more appealing job before the end of next week I would prefer to take it.

This summer I have had to think about the future for the first time in roughly two years, planning out what I intend to do for the long term as opposed to just living from one contract to the next. Until now it’s been completely acceptable in my mind to work for the sake of going on the next holiday, living a lifestyle I enjoy, leaving the future for another time. It also means that I haven’t gotten too deeply involved with work; the convenient thing about working as a contractor is that you don’t tend to align your ego and self-worth with your performance and office politics. In one sense, for me at least, it means I do a better job. The pressure that comes with identifying yourself through your work on an ongoing basis is sometimes too much for me to take to the point where it’s paralysing. On the other hand though, it means that you don’t progress professionally and you don’t get the same benefits as a permanent staff member, some of which I mentioned above. I have gotten very good at doing short bursts of impressive work, thinking of it as something that lines my purse, and walking away with a good reference.

As my roots here grow deeper, so too does my desire to be permanent, to be recognised professionally in more than a ‘You’re a good locum, here’s your contract back for another term’ sense. I want to progress, be senior, supervise others, go to training, deliver training, be able to have some… I can’t believe I’m about to say this… JOB SECURITY (eep). Once again I’m at a crossroads. Am I someone ‘permanent?’ Or am I by nature transient, temporary? Never have I been so happy as when I’ve earnt money, blown money and moved on. But does that make a life? Is it just a social construct that’s telling me to look for something that sticks, to push myself for that hard-to-get neurology job, to not just keep on doing what comes easy and where people don’t ask too many questions? Is it biological, do I want to make a nest? Am I bored, lazy? Most of all, why can’t I just get on and do something without asking myself all of these questions? Most people just get on with it and work fulltime without asking too many questions. But if I don’t have to, why should I?

Variety is the spice of my life, and the repetition and drudgery of full-time work is a massive downer, a pile of stodgy mashed potatoes in comparison to the flavoursome feast that has been my life for the past two years. But to stride around in a hospital doing excellent neurology work is what I want, and getting that through being a paediatric community locum is unlikely. So many figs, which one to choose?



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