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Locuming Guide

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Information and advice for veterinary jobseekers and employers from VetNurse Jobs.

Locuming Guide

This advice sheet from VetNurse Jobs and Ali Hickman RVN contains hints and advice for anyone who is working as, or thinking of working as a veterinary nurse locum.  
Contents
  1. Getting work
  2. Marketing your services
  3. What to charge
  4. Insurance
  5. Invoicing
  6. You will need
  7. Allowances
  8. Statutory sick pay
  9. What if you can't work
  10. VetNurse Members Top Tips
Getting Work

You can either market your services directly to practices, or register with a recruitment agency. There are pros and cons either way:

Going direct is good when:

  • You want to maximise your earnings
    Agencies charge a fee. By marketing your services direct to practices you can cut out the middleman, thereby potentially earning more and/or saving the practice money (making yourself a more attractive proposition in some cases).
  • You are already familiar with and trust the practices you’ll be working with.
  • You'd like to work in local practices to whom you can market your services easily.
  • You are comfortable running your own books and paying your own tax, (if you don't have a book keeper, accountant or umbrella company to do that for you).

Agencies are good when:

  • You want the convenience and to be able to focus on your work
    Finding work yourself takes time and effort. Agencies should save you that work, so you can focus on the job itself. But beware, not all agencies are created equal. You should pick one (ideally on recommendation) that you can trust will make the effort to match you to the right jobs.
  • You want maximum financial security / safety
    Agencies bill the practice on your behalf and collect the money. You might also find it comforting that they know the practice you're going to, and someone knows you are there!
  • You are new to locuming
    A spell with an agency will help you find your feet.
  • You want to work further afield
    Agencies may be more likely to be able to offer you opportunities outside your local area (which might be harder for you to find).
  • The practices you want to work for require locums to be sourced via an agency
    Some corporates and charities only or mainly use agency staff.

Going direct AND using an agency

  • If you work directly for practices, you can find that you get booked well in advance. But people's plans change, and you can find yourself with cancellations that are hard to fill. So it can be a good idea to source work BOTH directly and via an agency. If you do this, make sure you have agreed (in writing) with the agency, which practices you will be working for direct.
Marketing Your Services

If you want to work directly for local practices, we'd recommend that in the first instance, you write to the practices (following up with a telephone call) and ask to come and introduce yourself. Then, at the meeting, give them an information sheet about yourself and your service, and a card. 

You can extend the reach of your marketing activities (and supplement the above), by:

  • Adding yourself to the VetNurse Locum Map (ensuring your VetNurse profile is professional and up-to-date).
  • Creating a professional and up-to-date LinkedIn Profile
What to charge?

According to Gardner Llewelyn Veterinary Recruitment, rates at the start of 2017 tend to range between £13-£16 per hour for a Registered Veterinary Nurse and £10-£12 per hour for a VCA/VNA, excluding agency fees. That's a ballpark, rather than a definitive figure.

Rates depend on a number of factors:

  • The area of the country you work in
  • The job you do
  • The hours. For example, for OOH or public holidays you can expect to be paid more per hour than for a normal working week day
  • How much you can negotiate! Never under-sell yourself but don’t price yourself out either.
Insurance

The RCVS 'Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses' says:

3.4  Veterinary nurses must ensure that all their professional activities are covered by professional indemnity insurance or equivalent arrangements.

There are two separate insurance covers that you need to consider. The Veterinary Defence Society (VDS) provides both:

Required: Civil liability arising from breach of professional duty etc.
Veterinary nurses and other staff are normally covered under the professional indemnity insurance policy taken out by the practice. Just check the practice's policy before you start work.

Recommended: Criminal and disciplinary proceedings.
In the case of the VDS, criminal and disciplinary proceedings cover is automatically applied to named practice staff only. So, if you will only be working at a small number of practices, you could ask them to add your name to their policy. For greater flexibility and certainty, you should consider taking out your own policy. It costs about £50 per annum with the VDS.

Alternatively, recruitment agencies may provide cover for you. Check with them.

Public liability insurance
Public liability insurance covers you if clients or the public suffer property damage or personal injury as a result of your work. Again, you should be covered under the practice policy. However, if you work independently, providing services like dog walking, pet-sitting or grooming, it is essential. Examples of companies that offer this kind of insurance include:

Note that some umbrella companies may provide certain types of insurance cover, such as public liability, as part of their service. Worth checking.

Invoicing

There are a number of paid-for and free online invoicing services you can use to bill practices for your services. Two worthy of note:

www.zervant.com 
Offers free invoice templates and a paid-for invoicing system. At the time of writing, costs £9 per month for unlimited invoicing and free invoice templates.

www.xero.com 
A comprehensive system for invoicing, reconciling payments and preparing your annual accounts. At the time of writing, it costs £7.50 per month for the basic package with 5 invoices and 20 bank reconciliations; £16.50 for unlimited invoices/bank reconciliations. We use this at VetNurse.co.uk. 

You will need:
  • Dosimeter Badge
    Do you have your own x-ray radiation dosimeter badge? If not, do you keep a record of your ‘global’ exposure as you travel from location to location? No? You should, otherwise how do you know what your on-going exposure is? It’s hopefully zero but, if you don’t know, it might NOT be.

    TIP: Visit http://www.jakmarketing.co.uk/ to find out about setting up your own dosimeter badge account (costs around £15 per year).
  • Stethoscope
  • Name badge
  • Thermometer
  • Calculator
  • Notebook and pen
  • Scrubs
  • Theatre cap and indoor footwear
  • Fleece or body warmer
  • Neat and tidy greens
  • Watch with second hand
  • Reliable car with breakdown cover and ‘onward travel’ option. 
Allowances

You are entitled to maternity allowance (https://www.gov.uk/maternity-allowance/eligibility), and Paternity Pay and Leave for your partner (if they are employed):  https://www.gov.uk/paternity-pay-leave/overview

Statutory Sick pay

If you are self-employed, you are not entitled to statutory sick pay, and no working means no income!

It is therefore sensible to have a back-up or contingency plan in place for the times you cannot work. For example, put aside a minimum of one month’s normal income in a savings account; strictly to be used for this purpose and top it up again if it ever gets used or when your normal monthly bills increase.

What if you can't work?

Again, it is very practical to have a financial buffer that will provide you with an income for a lengthy period of unemployment due to, for example, ill health, an accident or some other unforeseen disaster.

You will need to see a professional advisor for help if you decide to set up a formal income protection plan.

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/personal-insurance-when-youre-self-employed 

Other Top Tips

A few suggestions from VetNurse.co.uk members. Feel free to add your own (comment at the foot of the page).

  • If you need to take your dog to work remember to check in advance that the practice is happy with that, not all are.
  • If you need accomodation when you locum, don't forget to ask in advance what the practice can provide. It's not unknown for locums to end up sleeping in a consult room!
Comments
  • This is brilliant! Thanks!

  • Thank YOU for kind remark :)

  • Good info.. Useful

  • i'm just changing from umbrella to Ltd - does anyone have a copy of a contract that they would be happy to send over? or a link to somewhere online?

  • What do locum nurses generally charge as on call fee? I.e. retainer fee. Then fee if called out. Thanks

  • Thank you for this information, exactly what I needed and so straight forward

  • Could you recommend a good umbrella company please?