Setting Yourself Up for Relief Work

Tosha K. Starke, DVM, All Four Paws Veterinary Relief, Manassas, Virginia

Kathy Wainwright, DVM, Capital Area Veterinary Services, Arlington, Virginia

Lance M. Roasa, DVM, MS, JD, The Roasa Law Group, Raymond, Nebraska

Michelle D. Krasicki-Aune, MBA, BS, CVT, Vet Teams, Coon Rapids, Minnesota

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Setting Yourself Up for Relief Work

Relief services are a thriving segment of the veterinary profession. Hiring a relief veterinarian allows associates and practice owners to be away from the practice knowing their patients are cared for and clients have access to needed services. Working relief comes with benefits and challenges that are different from standard clinical practice, and opportunities exist for both veterinarians and veterinary nurses. We explore several of the many facets of veterinary relief work.


Veterinary Technicians Can Do It, Too

Michelle D. Krasicki-Aune, MBA, BS, CVT, Vet Teams, Coon Rapids, Minnesota

Relief positions in the veterinary team are not just for DVMs anymore. The field for relief work has changed and there are now opportunities for veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants.

Following are some of the skills relief veterinary technicians and assistants will need, and their common experiences. See if a relief career may be in your future, or if using relief personnel may be right for your practice.

How to spell R-E-L-I-E-F

Ready, Set, Go

Relief personnel are typically self-starters and welcome the prospect to jump in and participate in challenging situations. They build on their already broad and well-rounded skill set (eg, alternative venipuncture, restraint methods, different communication styles). Additionally, relief personnel benefit from the unique opportunity to gain new skills every time they work with a different veterinary team.

Energy

Having a relief veterinary technician working in the practice is usually a new experience for veterinary teams, and his or her presence often brings newfound energy and excitement. For a relief team member, working with new clients and in new practices is exciting because of the promise of the unfamiliar and the excitement that new relationships are always full of surprises. This energy is contagious, and the team cannot escape it. Honestly, who would want to?

Learning

Discovering new and different ways of accomplishing a common goal (eg, obtaining blood samples on a fractious patient, keeping a patient normothermic during a long anesthetic episode, potty training a stubborn puppy) is exciting. Learning is never a one-way street, and relief veterinary technicians and team members benefit from the crossover of knowledge and skills each team member has while working together with patients. I am fond of saying, “There are 50 ways to Phoenix, and we get there each time,” when a team accomplishes a goal using newly gained knowledge or skills.

Independence

There are many different veterinary provider client types (eg, general practice and preventive care, including mobile; emergency and critical care; specialty practice; high volume spay and neuter). Relief veterinary technicians may form their own company or function as an employee of a larger relief organization. A variety of relief organizations means opportunities are available for personnel during all hours and days of the week, and at various physical locations across the country. So many choices give relief personnel the ability to be independent and create their own work schedules and choose the practice locations they like. 

Experiences

Relief personnel have constant new experiences from interactions with new coworkers, clients, and patients. They also work with different brands of instruments and products found in different veterinary practices. All of these unique opportunities provide an infinite number of interactions that may never be repeated. The opportunities for meeting unique patients, from a flame point Siamese cat to a flamingo and from a skink to a Saint Bernard, as well as their unique owners, are endless.

Fun

This single word sums up what it is like to be the relief veterinary team member. Every day has the potential for new, exciting, and interesting experiences like celebrating staff birthdays and work anniversaries with individuals just met; bonding over the weirdest phone calls answered; or comparing the best pet names that come to the practice.

Conclusion

As with any career, relief work has its own set of unique challenges, including complex schedules, travel, and familiarity with multiple forms of practice management systems. However, the positives (eg, leaving the behind-the-scene's practice drama, making new professional friends, changing the lives of patients and their families) usually outweigh these negatives.

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