Setting Boundaries as a Locum

The demands of the veterinary locum industry can sometimes lead to unintentional boundary overstepping. It wont necessarily be on purpose, but sometimes practices will inadvertently take advantage of people with a kind and empathetic nature using them to work the extra hours and always stay late on shift etc…. so setting those boundaries (which I usually think is best whenever you start a locum placement) will allow everyone to be on the same page with practices understanding your limits and you getting the most out of your role as well as a good work life balance. 

1. Acknowledge Your Limits:

Before diving into a new locum placement, take the time to reflect on your personal and professional limits. Understand how much workload you can realistically handle without sacrificing your well-being. By acknowledging your limits, you lay the foundation for setting boundaries that are both reasonable and sustainable.

2. Communicate Openly from the Start:

When starting a new locum assignment, communicate your expectations and availability clearly from the beginning. Discuss your preferred working hours, the maximum number of shifts you are willing to take on, and any specific requirements for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Open and honest communication sets the tone for a respectful and collaborative working relationship. Pop everything into a contract and send via MFL’s chat function to complete reduce the chance of miscommunication.

3. Establish Clear Terms in Your Contract:

Take an active role in negotiating your contract terms. Clearly outline expectations regarding working hours, overtime compensation, and any additional responsibilities. Having these terms in writing ensures that both parties are on the same page and minimises the risk of misunderstandings down the line. Check out how to write a confirmation contact here!

4. Learn to Say No:

One of the most powerful tools in setting boundaries is the ability to say no when necessary. While being eager to help is commendable, over-committing can lead to burnout. Politely decline additional shifts or tasks that go beyond your agreed-upon terms, and prioritise your well-being without feeling guilty.

5. Utilise Technology for Time Management:

Incorporate technology to help manage your time effectively. Use scheduling apps, reminders, and time-tracking tools to stay organised and ensure that your work hours align with your agreed-upon schedule. Technological tools can be valuable allies in maintaining boundaries and preventing unintentional overwork.

MFL’s management and booking platform is free for locums to find, book shifts in real time. Plus manage finances.

6. Educate and Advocate for Yourself:

Empower yourself by staying informed about labor laws, industry standards, and your rights as a locum professional. If you find that certain practices consistently push boundaries, don’t hesitate to advocate for yourself. Discuss concerns with the appropriate parties and work collaboratively to find solutions that prioritise both your needs and the demands of the workplace. Want to chat to an expert? See our resources page.

7. Prioritise Self-Care:

Setting boundaries extends beyond the workplace. Prioritise self-care to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Make time for activities that rejuvenate you, whether it’s spending time with loved ones, engaging in hobbies, or simply enjoying moments of solitude. A well-nurtured self is better equipped to navigate the challenges of a demanding locum career.


As a locum professional, setting boundaries is not only a means of self-preservation but also a strategy for fostering a positive and sustainable work environment. By proactively communicating your limits, negotiating clear terms, and prioritising self-care, you empower yourself to navigate the locum landscape with resilience and balance. Remember, a locum journey can be both fulfilling and sustainable when boundaries are respected and well-maintained.

Written by Emma Ruggles and Molly Fiander