The 4 pushing issues for pregnant Locum GPs (pardon the pun..)
21st February 2017 • Helpful Advice
Maternity leave should be a wonderful time, a time to switch off from working life and concentrate on your new family. But it can also be a time when you feel conflicted – you may want to completely forget about work, yet you can’t do this as a medic, not entirely, because you have to still keep up to date and at least consider how you might get back to work.
I have written this blog as someone who has gone on Mat leave 3 times, and these are the things that I wish I had known before my first baby. Some things were learnt the hard way and others came less painfully from those in-the-know. I hope that this can help on a practical level as well as an emotional one.
Finance: When there’s going be an extra mouth to feed..
Maternity Allowance: You can claim this as a self-employed worker, and it’s worth doing so for £139 per week, for up to 39 weeks. You will need to get a MATB1 form signed by your midwife to send off with your application. Payments can start 11 weeks before your baby is due.
You can get all of the info you need including necessary forms here:
It’s just as important to reduce unnecessary outgoings. The chief saving here is usually indemnity cover. You can usually pause the payments with just a phone call and, as it’s such a large expense these days, you’ll really notice the extra cash.
Considerably cheaper but just as pausable – Locum Organiser. Just drop us a line and we’ll stop your payments. If you need access while on mat leave to do your tax, it’s not a problem and it’s free – just let us know.
Depending on how long you’ll be off work, it might also be worth giving your car insurance provider a ring, as you won’t need to pay for business use during your time off.
Appraisal and keeping up to date – with a new baby in tow…
It’s likely to be the last thing on your mind as you go off on mat leave, but sadly you’ll still have to give some thought to your appraisal. But a bit of forward planning can make things easier and Dr Duncan Walling of FourteenFish.com has some comforting tips which may help maintain your sanity and balance as a new mum –
- Appraisal can usually be delayed without it being counted against you.
- Don’t worry too much about how many CPD credits you get during your mat leave.
Duncan told me “My advice (which also applies to extended travel or time abroad) would always be speak to Health Education England about your plans, as they will normally work out something to accommodate your circumstances. With maternity leave, this will normally just be delaying your appraisal and this shouldn’t have any negative implications. It is recognised that you may not have as many CPD credits that year, though you will still be expected to have a colleague and patient feedback in a revalidation cycle. Of course, if you do manage any learning or CPD remember to record it.”
It’s important to find ways to still get some CPD in, but realistically, it’s not at all easy to do the usual away-day courses when you have a young baby, are breast feeding, or have yet to get childcare sorted. Online modules can come to the rescue here. NB Medical Hot Topics courses are available as online videos so you can see the lectures in smaller chunks as and when you get time.
It’s vital to record the little everyday things that you might do, like following and reflecting on posts in Tiko’s or GP Resilience Facebook groups, as it all adds up. It makes it more likely that you will record your learning if you have a simple way of doing so. I find the easiest way to use an app on my phone – both FourteenFish and the GMC have free apps for this.
Support when you really need it..
If you have a GP learning group, it’s well worth continuing to meet up when you can. I found my own group meetings, which I usually resumed when my baby was around 12 weeks old, were not only a way of gaining CPD credits, but reminded me that I hadn’t moved to the moon, and I still enjoyed being a doctor as well as being a mum.
I also found that I had never before frequented my own GP surgery as much as I did as a new mum. And I found it hard to admit when I needed help; when my kids were ill and I was scared senseless, or when I had post-natal issues and, of course, concluded that I had a terminal illness. I went to my GP, who took me seriously and looked after me like any other new mum, and for that, I was eternally grateful.
I cannot claim even now that going to see my own GP feels comfortable (my oldest is 6), but I have learnt that it’s OK to not be able to be objective about myself or my loved ones – and I think this is very normal.
Going back to work – how will you do it..?
Each time I have gone back to work after mat leave, I have suffered a crisis of confidence in the run up. I have convinced myself that I will not remember a thing, no matter what everyone says around me in their efforts to be reassuring. These are the 5 small things that I found helped me in a really big way:
- I attended the GP Hot Topics course as close as I could to going back (they tour the country every spring and autumn). At the end of the day, I felt a massive sense of relief that I could actually remember a fair bit. Those bits that were a bit rusty and covered in sudacreme were well and truly cleaned off and as shiny as ever! And I left knowing that any big changes within general practice that had taken place while I had been enjoying mummy-hood were now at my fingertips and I would know where to look when needed.
- I approached my favourite friendly practice where I locum, and asked if I could do a slow surgery, a week or so before I start back ‘properly’, ideally as supernumerary. For example 4-6 patients at 15-20 mins per consultation, and with a partner present in the building who was aware that I might need to ask for advice. I offered to do this for free, but most times the practice paid me pro-rata. Either way, it really helped me by taking away the anxiety of that first full-on session when you are expected to practice as if you have simply had the weekend off- not been away for months!I did a trial run with child care, prior to that first session. This really helped to alleviate my anxiety about leaving my baby such that I could relax back into work and concentrate on the matter in hand.
- I have now realised that “Going back to work anxiety” is largely psychological. I am not saying that medicine will not have moved on at all during your time away, or that your brain will not be at least a little pre-occupied by thoughts of what your baby is eating/ drinking or how they are being cared for while you are at work, BUT, medicine is a bit like riding a bike. It will come back really fairly quickly and you will be OK.
- Be reassured that you will reach a new equilibrium where you can work, be a mum, and find fulfilment – and for me, the only job that has allowed this balance has been as a locum GP.