A first-time Locum Consultant experiences life in the Outer Hebrides

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We love it when doctors have great experiences at jobs we've helped them to find. Recently, a Consultant Radiologist we assisted worked several locum stints at a remote hospital in Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. As you'll read, he had quite the adventure... 

For the past 30 years I have worked in several permanent posts and have reached the top position in the hierarchy of Consultant Radiologists in the NHS. I was a popular colleague of many of my peers, and could have continued along the same path until I retired (I still have couple of years to go). There was just something missing at my last workplace, where I spent the best professional years of my life. I decided to change my career direction, left the post and headed down the untrodden path of freedom and uncertainty, offering myself as a freelance radiologist, with my main objective being to experience how other NHS hospitals in the UK operate.

It’s clear that there is a need for experienced radiologists. Nevertheless, suddenly finding oneself free from a permanent position raises questions about where one should next look for work, and how to find a role where one would feel a valued member of the team.

When it comes to finding radiology jobs, there are many agencies to choose from. After looking through various adverts and websites I replied to an advert from Head Medical, who had a job opportunity for an experienced radiologist to work at the remote Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway. 

Once I enquired about the post I was given full information about the job on offer, and didn’t feel pressured. I decided to apply and Head Medical helped me with all the paperwork necessary to get hired as locum radiologist (for the first time in my life). The process went smoothly with no hassles. We discussed and agreed the conditions of the contract, I was helped to sort out transport and accommodation, and was ready to go for my first two weeks to work at the Isle of Lewis.

Over the past 12 years I have worked for a busy NHS hospitals trust, where I worked mainly on CT and MRI reports. My reports were distributed to many ‘clients’ (patients of specialists or GPs), but I had little (if any) chance of meeting fellow professionals or patients in person, to speak with them and/or follow their cases. 

What I missed out on at my former workplace is what I experienced after just a few days at the Western Isles hospital! The hospital is smaller than those I have worked for previously, and despite my extensive experience in Head and Neck and Neuroradiology, here I was asked to cover pretty much anything as a general radiologist. Every day I have seen interesting and diagnostically-challenging cases, which I have found stimulating and refreshing. The new technology allows to deliver many varied examinations. This hospital has no MRI but the CT is capable to do CT angiographies or colonographies, something I was used to doing in the past but due to my subspecialisation I wasn’t being exposed to over the more recent years, and I enjoyed doing this here.

Most importantly, I felt strongly that I worked as part of the team. Junior doctors were regularly coming to ask for various examinations, senior doctors were often personally checking the outcomes of examinations and I enjoyed discussing cases with them. GPs were also often calling my office to discuss cases. Some GPs are located remotely (on other islands of the Outer Hebrides for example), but it was a pleasure to realise that after just several days at the hospital they knew me from my reports. Further to this, several of them, when they phoned to discuss cases, felt the need to thank me for caring about their patients, which is something which never happened to me in the ‘big city’.

I was the sole radiologist at the hospital, thus was in contact with a team of radiographers working at various stations throughout the department. I felt a welcome part of the department from the first day on the job – we all worked together, the work was flawless, and the team was a substantial reason for my very good experience here. All my new colleagues were very attentive, personal, helpful and friendly! Together, we were efficiently attending to each and every incoming patient, serving not only to what patients needed, but also how it suited each of these patients personally, and it made me feel good about the place and its practice.

Karen Diamond, the Consultant from Head Medical, also helped me to feel good about my first locum experience – she checked in with me regularly to see how I felt and to reassure me if I had any concerns. Starting from my first trip over to the Western Isles, she phoned regularly to ask about my day to day work, and was keen to know what I thought about the hospital and people there, the work, and also about the weekend spent exploring the natural beauty of the island. I am a keen photographer, and find it a pleasure to share photos with others. Karen also checked that the hospital were happy with me, and I was pleased to hear about their positive feedback.

Following my initial fears about how my first locum experience would turn out, this experience was better than I ever expected it to be. It was a hassle free experience with lots of pleasure to be found from working and spending a bit of life at this remote location, finding lots of ‘something’ which we can easily miss out on in other places.

It is all about people there. I did not feel to be at the edge of Scotland at all…to the contrary, I felt I was at its very heart.

This is why it did not take long for me to ask, “When can I come back?”

We arranged another month of locum work at the Western Isles soon after, and I had a second pleasant experience there. So I asked for more again, and look forward to going back. To work at the Western Isles Hospital and live in the Outer Hebrides, exploring its outstanding natural beauty and meeting new colleagues, I am thankful for this experience, which has enriched my life.

To find out more about UK & Ireland locum job opportunities for Consultants, contact Karen Diamond on +44 (0)131 240 5261 or email karen@headmedical.com