When we talk about occupational burnout, a key risk factor is a lack of ‘decision latitude’. Decision latitude means the ability you have to make your own decisions and take control of your situation. It is often not the workload that causes burnout, but the inability to manage that workload in the way of your choosing. This is true in life outside of the workplace and we all know the stress of being in a situation, personal or professional, over which we have no control. This has never been more pertinent since we, as a whole population, have lost decision latitude in ways that would have been unimaginable a year ago.
In many ways, working as a GP locum is the ultimate step in taking control of your working life. It enables you to choose where you work, when you work, and with whom you work. This has always come at the recognised risk of job insecurity but, until recently, the GP locum market has been very much a sellers’ market place and this has largely mitigated the insecurity.
Coronavirus has turned this on its head. Much GP locum work has dried up and the work available is often higher risk and at less sociable hours. The isolation that can occur as a GP locum has been magnified with some GP locum feeling genuinely betrayed as practices with whom they have had longstanding relationships have ceased to offer work. Inevitably this has caused huge financial strain for some. As we plunge into a second period of national lockdown the uncertainty looms ever larger.