International Women’s Day – Be strong, be forthright and #BreakTheBias.

Locums should stand up for themselves and ‘Break the Bias’.

Tuesday March 8th is International Women’s Day, a time for women to sit up and take control of their lives and careers. But there are ways of going about it. This day, every year has a dedicated theme, and 2022 is ‘Breaking the Bias’.

Unfortunately, in todays’ world, being a locum (whether a GP, nurse or other clinician) is not necessarily as easy as you would hope it to be, but it can be a satisfying and enjoyable career. There are potentially many barriers to break down, and sadly, in some cases you could be a victim of workplace bias. When you are new to the medical profession, it can be even more difficult as you already have so much to learn about how a surgery/hospital department is run, or other protocols. Bias makes this even more difficult. You may experience gender inequality (particularly suffered by women) and even more paramount – racial inequality. Bias takes many forms from being the ‘newbie on the block’ and even physical appearance, gender or religion, so it holds no bars.

Hopefully, you don’t fall foul to such prejudices, but being prepared for these circumstances will help you get through them. Knowing the right direction to take if you find you have a grievance, is very important for your career development. Know your own mind, be strong but exercise polite and correct behaviour, and this should benefit you greatly.

What tips are helpful to me when starting a new position?

Starting from the ground and gaining respect:

  • Arrive on time or early
  • Greet everyone you can with a smile
  • Ask sensible questions, i.e. where is the wash room, where is stationery stock, what do people do for lunch – anything simple to get you started. Try to make contact with the Practice Manager or relevant individual, to find out the details of what they expect from you.
  • Make friendly but professional contact with any doctors you may be working with, it will stand you in good stead, and they would more likely assist you even when they are busy.
  • Say goodbye when leaving – particularly on your last day, in order to get a good reference and be employed again, should they need a locum. You want to be invited back, so leave a good memory of yourself.
  • It can be difficult to forge friendships, as placements may not be very long. However, if you are invited to go out after work or other time, try to make it. Your colleagues can be vitally important when you need help to combat a situation where you are subjected to bias.

These are the easy pointers, but bias can go a lot deeper and be harder to fight against. If you intend to make locum work your career, you will not be subjected to ‘leadership inequality’ where men are persistently appointed the better or higher grade positions. But you will probably experience it at some time in your career. GP surgeries are obviously much smaller than hospital environments and tend to be ‘all hands to the pump’, but in the larger and busier placements, you could be ‘given the least important jobs’ even though you are qualified. So how can you handle this and other bias?

Standing up for yourself

Highly qualified and professional women in the workplace have a tough time in fighting to the top and being treated equally. In this instance, strength and clear strategies will lead you well. Be prepared for tricky times ahead and you will be able to face them. Speak up from a position of strength and knowledge, and don’t be afraid to do so.

If you are contracted as a locum, in some ways you are in a good position, in that Applocum will always advise you and try to help with your contractual rights, so you are not alone. Just make sure from the beginning, what is expected of you and how far you are prepared to go over and above that, before feeling badly treated. Try to appease the situation by talking to the person concerned, and if that doesn’t work, you need to take further action – pleasantly and politely, but with strength.

When you need to consult higher authority

If your grievance goes further than a few remarks or actions by a specific staff member, particularly if it relates to your sex, race or religion, if it persists, even after you have approached the person concerned and kept the door open for a resolution, you will have to report it for your own mental wellbeing. Get your facts right and also if you have any evidence (other staff members who witness or hear what is happening), but you must be clear on your complaint or grievance.

In this instance, go to your immediate superior first and explain clearly and strongly how you feel. Any good employer has a duty to listen and he or she may refer you on to a higher level, or to a department that specifically deals with these kind of situations. You must have an idea of what result you want from the situation.

Be strong, be forthright and #BreakTheBias.

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