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Can Doctors Work At Multiple Hospitals? (At The Same Time)

Can Doctors Work At Multiple Hospitals? (At The Same Time)

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

With the demand for doctors being so high, there are often multiple job openings at different hospitals in a local area.

Doctors can work at multiple hospitals at the same time. They might choose to do this in order to access a wider patient base as a specialist or in order to earn more money as they can work where they’re most needed. However, the majority of doctors in the NHS will just work at one hospital.

Balancing the needs of patients across different facilities while managing the professional responsibilities of a physician can be challenging.

However, many doctors have successfully managed to navigate these challenges by collaborating with colleagues and adjusting to the nuances of different environments.

Why Doctors Might Work At More Than One Hospital

The majority of doctors working in the NHS will only work in one hospital. You have a specific job role and position in that hospital and turn up for work each day just at one location.

However, there are several reasons why doctors might choose to work at multiple hospitals.

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For one, certain specialists might cover multiple hospitals in an area, typically during out-of-hours periods, such as weekends or nights.

For example, overnight there may just be one kidney specialist covering three different hospitals in a local area.

This is because the demand for a kidney doctor’s specialist advice at any one of those hospitals overnight is relatively low- so they can cover three hospitals at the same time.

Equally, a locum doctor (essentially like a temporary teacher but for doctors) might choose to work at multiple different hospitals.

This lets them work wherever they’re needed most and so can earn the most money.

In both of these cases, by practising in various hospitals, doctors can gain exposure to a variety of patient populations, medical conditions, and treatment approaches, which can enhance their professional skills and knowledge.

Benefits Of Working At Multiple Hospitals

Here are some of the potential benefits to a doctor who chooses to work at more than one hospital:

Locum Income Potential

Doctors working at multiple hospitals have the opportunity to augment their income through locum work.

As I mentioned, a locum job is a temporary position that doctors can take up in addition to their primary job, allowing them to earn extra income by extending their services on a per-diem, short-term, or long-term basis.

This flexible work arrangement benefits both the doctors and the healthcare facilities by addressing staffing shortages and ensuring continuity of care.

Some doctors do locum work alongside their regular work while others will purely pick up locum shifts, often at a few different hospitals in an area.

Expansion Of Professional Network

Working in various hospitals allows doctors to expand their professional network, which can be instrumental in their career growth.

By connecting with other healthcare professionals, they can share knowledge, learn from others’ experiences, and potentially find new opportunities for career advancement.

A surgeon and theatre team in an operating room
Surgeons not uncommonly operate across multiple sites

The exposure to different clinical settings and practices also enables doctors to hone their skills and adapt to various patient care scenarios.

Each hospital in the NHS has a slightly different feel and will often do things subtly differently, so it’s valuable for a doctor to experience a variety of working environments.

Larger Patient Base For Specialists

Lastly, specialist doctors can reach a wider patient base by working at multiple hospitals.

This arrangement can benefit specialists who offer niche services or treatments that may not be readily available in every hospital.

By extending their expertise across several healthcare facilities, these doctors can help more patients and increase their professional recognition in their specialty.

For a doctor who’s highly specialised in just one particular area, there may just not be enough patients with the right conditions in the catchment area of just one hospital.

Therefore, by working at multiple hospitals they can bring patients together with rarer conditions and see them at a specialised clinic.

Challenges Of Working At Multiple Hospitals

There are, however, undoubtedly some drawbacks to working at more than one hospital:

Logistical Issues

Working at multiple hospitals poses logistical challenges for doctors, as they must balance their time and resources between different locations.

This may lead to increased travel time, potential scheduling conflicts, and reduced availability for patients.

Additionally, adjusting to variations in hospital policies, procedures, and staff dynamics can be demanding for physicians.

Regulatory Constraints

Doctors working at several hospitals need to navigate various regulatory constraints, such as obtaining credentials and privileges at each medical facility.

This requires them to meet the specific requirements of each hospital, which might differ based on the type of healthcare institution and geographic location.

This process can be time-consuming and tedious for healthcare professionals, hindering their ability to smoothly transition between hospitals.

In addition to all the above, learning how to use each hospital’s computer systems can be a real pain as they can often work completely differently.

Communication Difficulties

Effective communication is critical for delivering high-quality patient care.

However, physicians working in multiple hospitals may encounter difficulties in maintaining clear communication with colleagues and other healthcare providers.

Due to the existence of different subunit cultures, such as professional culture, team culture, and ward/department culture, collaborating efficiently can be challenging.

In addition, the use of various electronic medical record systems and other technology platforms can further complicate the communication process.

This may increase the risk of miscommunication, impacting patient outcomes and overall hospital performance.

Do Other Healthcare Professionals Work At More Than One Hospital?

It’s not just doctors who can work at multiple hospitals or healthcare facilities. Other healthcare professionals do not uncommonly do exactly the same.

This practice enables them to diversify their experiences and expand their services to a broader range of patients.

Nurses, for example, frequently work at more than one hospital, particularly when they have specialised skills or are working in a part-time capacity.

This allows them to gain better exposure to different practices and protocols, thus helping them further advance their careers.

Some allied healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and radiographers, may also work across various facilities, either due to personal preferences or market demand.

By working in multiple settings, they can develop a broader understanding of the healthcare landscape, enhance their skills, and contribute to better patient outcomes.

Final Thoughts

The surge in demand for healthcare services has led to healthcare professionals more frequently working at more than one location.

However, the complexities that emerge from working across various environments are not to be underestimated.

Although doctors are able to work at more than one hospital, I personally have only ever stuck to one!

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.