Could your hospital use some relief? Let’s talk about relief veterinarians and techs

by By Lisa Tynan

9 min read

Whether you are of the opinion that there is a nationwide shortage of veterinarians or not, we can all agree that animal hospitals are having difficulty filling positions. Some might argue that’s because there aren’t enough vets to fill the ever-growing list of job openings. Others believe that there are enough vets, they just aren’t sticking with the traditional model of veterinary practice anymore. 

But what exactly does that mean?

Once upon a time, a vet student would graduate and be scooped up into an associate position or put out their own shingle and start their practice. These days, as work-life balance and pay equity are at the forefront of employment considerations, more and more vets are opting for less traditional paths. Among those alternative options exists the growing field of relief veterinarians, and these days that career choice seems to be paying off.

What is a relief veterinarian or vet tech?

A relief veterinarian examining a cat on a tableRelief veterinarians and vet techs function as high-level substitutes… rockstar clinicians who can seamlessly slip into a veterinary practice for a day, a week, or even a few months to fill scheduling holes. Hospitals use relief professionals for a myriad of reasons, including maternity leave, vacation, sick leave, or even last-minute staff call-offs. 

In the past, relief was a four-letter word. 

Veterinarians who worked relief were thought of as failed practitioners who couldn’t hold down a steady job. But these days, relief work is a conscious choice made by vets who fancy a more flexible lifestyle with more control over their schedule and income. In fact, relief vets and techs can gain a whole host of valuable skills from working at a wide variety of practices with vastly different styles and quality of medicine.

It’s one thing to be a solid, reliable vet who shows up to the same job, day in and day out, with a staff that knows their every whim before they ask. It’s an entirely different beast to have the communication skills, confidence, and medical prowess to walk into an unknown hospital and provide top-notch veterinary care to complete strangers surrounded by unfamiliar support staff. 

“Relief work isn’t for everyone, but the vets and techs who excel at it can bring immense benefits to each practice they visit.”

How can my hospital benefit from relief veterinarians and techs?

Two vet techs discussing information on a clipboardThe most obvious answer is… when given the choice between hiring a relief vet and going dark for lack of coverage, wouldn’t you choose option A? Relief practitioners can keep your doors open and your lights on, whether your usual staff is gone for the day or gone for good. In fact, many visiting vets or techs often have such a great experience and fit in so well with the existing team that they wind up being hired after an extended “working interview.” 

But relief isn’t just for when someone is absent. 

Many busy hospitals opt to bring in additional temporary support when they’re overbooked. Others will have a relief vet scheduled for their surgery days to make sure no one gets behind and clients are seen in a timely manner. 

Can relief veterinarians be expensive? Yes. But is their cost worth their added production? Absolutely. Not to mention, if you have a regular relief vet or tech in place of permanent staff, your hospital can save on the costs of employee benefits since these folks are contract workers.

And finally, hiring relief can bring relief to your staff. How many veterinarians and vet techs do you know who haven’t taken a vacation in years because they simply can’t bring themselves to leave your hospital in the lurch? Having the confidence that a reliable relief worker will be there to keep the ship afloat can be just the nudge they need to take time off and recharge.

How does veterinary relief work?

There are two ways to go about hiring relief practitioners:

1: Word of mouth

Many vets and techs manage themselves and will find work through peer recommendations and referrals. This can be a bit challenging for practice managers and owners to find relief aid when they need it.

2: Relief agencies

These companies run the gamut from fully employing veterinarians and placing them at hospitals to simply providing a platform where vets, techs, and hospitals can schedule themselves, like Roo. Using a veterinary relief staffing company like Roo where scheduling and payment are handled through an online portal – as are tax documents and disciplinary actions – means that the stress associated with hiring a relief vet or tech disappears. 

We could all use some relief

Having peace of mind that your doors will stay open, your lights will stay on, and your clients will stay smiling, makes it 100% worthwhile to consider hiring relief staff at your hospital. 

So, are you going to give it a shot this year?

Lisa Tynan

Lisa Tynan

Lisa Tynan is the Marketing & Account Manager for Roo. Before joining the veterinary relief industry in 2019, she worked in animal welfare for 9 years, first with the ASPCA and then the Houston SPCA. She has her Master's Degree in Animal Behavior and Conservation, which has proven utterly useless in trying to understand her two perfectly weird black cats, Kitten and Archer.

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