How to be a good locum

Life as a locum has many desirable qualities:  good pay, few administrative responsibilities, travel and lifestyle flexibility.  At Atom Physics Staffing, we’ve had many locums work contracts for us.  Some have had great success and get their choice of assignments, and some have been asked by facilities not to come back.  We have had to make the choice not to use some locums anymore even though there is a shortage of physicists and facilities are desperate for coverage.  We would like to share with you some of the qualities and expectations that make for a good locum.

Work Ethic

Seems pretty obvious, but unfortunately the lack of a good work ethic is the leading reason we are asked to remove or not send a physicist back to a site.  There is nothing more frustrating to a department manager who is paying top dollar for a locum physicist than to see that physicist cutting out early or doing the bare minimum to get by. Work ethic is a perception of the physicist’s eagerness and availability to get the job done and may not directly relate to the actual quality of work.  Remember, very few people understand what the physicist is really doing, so job performance is often evaluated by the work ethic the physicist demonstrates.



Many facilities expect the locum physicist to hit the ground running.  After all, the premium pay that the facility is offering is to get their needs met immediately.  If there is too much training needed or constant questions about how to do things, the staff can get the impression that the physicist is not competent and therefore they are not getting what they paid for.  While it is important to ask questions when you aren’t sure about department policy or workflow, there needs to be a balance between becoming too dependent on the staff and being self-sufficient.  An example of being more self-sufficient are looking at previous QA documents to figure out what is included or where to file or label them rather than asking someone what to do at every turn.  Another example is not taking on jobs that use equipment you are not too familiar with.  Be honest up front if you don’t have HDR experience or haven’t used an Elekta machine in years.



Let’s be honest, physicists can be an odd bunch.  That’s ok.  People expect their physicist to be a little weird – I always tell people that’s how you know you are getting good physics.  With that said, you need to be able to relate to the staff and take feedback.  As a locum, you are there to fill a role and to provide a service.  Even if the work you are doing behind the scenes is excellent, if you are not communicating well with the staff or if they are reluctant to ask you questions because of the hassle, they are not going to want you back.


A positive attitude and a willingness to work goes a long way with a facility.  Being able to communicate clearly with staff and demonstrating confidence and competency when working as a locum can be the key to success and open the door to more desirable assignments and pay.


Let us know if you want to be a standout all-star locum for Atom Physics Staffing!