After locuming as a newly qualified pharmacist in Northern Ireland, I had moved to Edinburgh to work and study. It wasn’t long before I was offered my first locum shift.
When I received the text, I was very keen to take the job. It wasn’t far from where I lived, and I knew the morning would be relatively easy – consisting of checking trays and dispensing methadone for a handful of patients.
However, I decided – for the first time – that I was going to ask for a higher rate. I had several reasons to justify this:
- I knew the 'going rate' for a normal weekday shift in the area was a few quid higher than what I had been offered
- The shift was only for half the day, so I was giving up a potential full day of work (or a lie in)
- I would be working on the weekend – a Saturday
- The shift was short notice – in three or four days’ time.
Armed with this rationale, I felt confident that I could ask for a higher rate and get it. Here is the breakdown of my first stab at negotiation:
“Hi [pharmacy manager], how are you?”
“Not bad Kristoffer. Did you get my text about the shift this Saturday?”
“Yes I did, thanks for letting me know. I should be able to work it. I was just wondering if there is any flexibility in the hourly pay? As I was expecting a bit more – given the going rate.”
“Well Kristoffer, that’s the rate we pay newly qualified pharmacists like yourself, so that’s all we can offer.”
“Oh, ok. That’s no problem. I can cover the shift on Saturday.”
As you can see, my first attempt at negotiation fell flat on its face.
Looking back, I like to think through the different ways that I could have played it. However, what I would have done differently doesn’t really matter.
I don’t regret taking the shift for a slightly lower rate than I had originally hoped. Working that Saturday morning helped me assess my own worth, and consider what I was willing to work for in the future. It meant that the next time the manager offered me a shift, I felt confident enough in my abilities to turn the rate down.
Reflecting on what you as a pharmacist deserve to be paid is something all locums need to do. Not only the newly qualified – who may understandably want to take the first shift that comes their way – but those who have been working as a regular locum for while, and feel their efforts deserve to be reflected in their rate.
Don’t let my first failed attempt put you off though – if you feel you deserve a higher rate, do speak to your employer. But make sure you can justify why your efforts or skills warrant an increase.
Kristoffer Stewart is CPD and clinical editor of C+D, as well as a locum community pharmacist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him on Twitter @CandDKristoffer. Read his feature on negotiating locum rates here
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