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What Is a Locum Doctor?

by Yuyu. Published on .

You might be attended by a locum doctor when you visited a GP clinic before. Have you ever wondered what a locum doctor is?

The variety of roles, such as locum doctor, resident doctor, travelling doctor, within the healthcare system can sometimes seem confusing, as each carries its unique set of ethical responsibilities, skills, and benefits.

Today, we explore the role of a locum doctor, a crucial but often misunderstood position within healthcare.

Doctor examining a child

What Is a Locum Doctor?

The word "Locum" originates from the Latin term 'locum tenens', which translates to 'placeholder'.

A locum doctor is a fully certified physician who steps in temporarily for another doctor due to their absence for various reasons ranging from vacation, training, or illness.

What Does a Locum Doctor Do?

Locum doctors perform the same duties as the regular general practitioners they replace. They consult patients, make diagnoses, prescribe treatments, and carry out procedures.

Quite often, these professionals work across different healthcare specialties, providing them with a broad range of medical experiences.

Are Locum Doctors Certified?

Yes, locum doctors are certified.

To work as a locum doctor, a physician needs to be fully licensed in the state where they aim to practice. They may also have extra certifications depending on their medical specialty. They should have completed a residency program and usually pass a specialty board examination.

In Singapore, to be a locum doctor, they normally attend a medical university and take part in an MBSS program. After five years in the program, they'll earn a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Science degree.

As part of their education, they'll need to complete residency training.

Finally, they'll need to register with the Singapore Medical Council to get a medical license in Singapore.

Skill Set of a Locum Doctor

Locum doctors require a comprehensive skill set compared to resident doctors.

  1. Adaptability: They need to be adaptable and versatile, as they may transition between different healthcare environments.

  2. Communication: Strong communication is another essential skill, as they need to relay essential information to patients, their families, and other healthcare professionals in the facility.

  3. Decision-making: Moreover, because they step into various clinical situations, they need excellent diagnostic and decision-making skills.

What Are the Difference between Locum Doctors and Resident Doctors?

While both are qualified doctors, their roles in the healthcare system differ significantly.

Locum doctors are typically experienced physicians who fill in temporarily in various medical settings.

Below are some area of expertise you could expect:

  • Psychiatry
  • Anaesthesiology
  • Surgery
  • Dermatology
  • Gynaecology
  • Neurology
  • Allergy and immunology
  • Paediatrics

In contrast, resident doctors are physicians in training, typically working in a hospital, honing their skills in a specific area of medicine under the supervision of fully licensed doctors.

Should You Visit a Locum Doctor?

Absolutely! Locum doctors are fully certified physicians capable of providing high-quality care.

Despite being temporary, these practitioners bring invaluable experience from various healthcare environments, enabling them to offer unique perspectives and solutions.

However, like all healthcare decisions, it's about personal comfort – if you prefer consistency in your care, you might opt for a permanent or resident doctor.


Both locum and resident doctors have important roles in ensuring continuous, high-quality patient care. Whichever you opt for will depend on your comfort level and healthcare needs.

It's essential to understand that all locum physicians are trained and certified to provide healthcare at the highest level, ensuring patients receive the best possible care, regardless of who they choose.

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