What Is a Relief Veterinarian — And How Is It Different from Part-Time Veterinary Work?
Relief and part-time veterinary work are growing options for passionate professionals seeking flexibility in their careers. A relief veterinarian fills in temporary positions at different clinics when needed, whether that be due to a leave of absence, sudden staffing changes, a high-volume caseload, or anything else. Part-time veterinarians similarly fill in at clinics but tend to work at one clinic at a time, offering more stability. Both options allow professionals to have more control over their work schedules while helping animals and the veterinarians they’re filling in for alike.
As burnout becomes a more prevalent threat in the veterinary field (and all fields), veterinarians are increasingly focusing on cultivating a better work-life balance. Amidst the Great Resignation, both part-time and relief veterinary work provide options for veterinarians to achieve the flexibility they’ve been seeking — offering an intermediary alternative that may be better than leaving the field permanently. This is where the main appeal of veterinary relief comes in — it allows you to work as little or as much, when and where you want. And while it provides less certainty than a full- or part-time position, working as a relief veterinarian puts scheduling at your fingertips, allowing you to put life first when it matters most.
However, there are additional responsibilities that a relief veterinarian must take on that those working full-time or part-time are exempt from. For instance, relief vets are paid as a contractor via1099 and must manage paying their self-employment taxes, licensing fees, and professional liability insurance. Since relief veterinarians typically work on an on-call, as-needed basis (similar to substitute teachers), most will work at multiple hospitals, complicating the billing, collecting, and tax filing processes even more. Working for a company like VetEvolve can help veterinary professionals mitigate this, but it will still be trickier to navigate than if they were working full- or part-time.
Alternatively, working as a part-time veterinarian is more stable, and still a great way to keep working through periods when life demands more attention than work, as it allows veterinarians to flex up or flex down to match the ebbs and flows of situations. So if you’re going back to school, need to take care of children or other family members, or want more time to pour into another passion, part-time veterinary work may be your best option.
The Top 3 Advantages of Choosing Part-Time Over a Relief Veterinarian Career Path
It Helps You Avoid Burnout While Still Giving You a Regular Work Schedule
As mentioned above, for veterinarians, burnout is a real threat. Between the physical exhaustion of being on your feet all day, staff shortages, the mental exhaustion of daily problem-solving, the emotional exhaustion of treating animals in pain, and managing pet owners who are stressed and even in panic, over time veterinary work can be more than a handful. Add onto that a growing caseload and long hours, and you’ve got a potent recipe for burnout.
Relief and part-time veterinarians are an antidote to burnout for all parties — including the relief/part-time vets themselves, vets they may be filling in for, and the rest of the professionals working at that clinic. When brought in as an extra set of hands to help with case overload, they’re able to take some of the mounting pressure off of full-time veterinarians and support staff quickly, immediately reducing stress. When filling in for another veterinarian, relief personnel help those vets take a vacation, or focus on other life goals, family, or areas of interest, ultimately making their career more fulfilling and sustainable in the long run.
However, part-time veterinary work includes these same rewarding qualities but a more dependable work schedule. Whereas relief veterinarians are treated as “on-call,” part-time positions include more predictable schedules, ensuring a more consistent flow of work, pay, and benefits. A part-time work opportunity will also allow the veterinarian to get used to the clinic’s culture and processes, and also give the vet the opportunity to make more of a long-term positive impact.
A veterinarian will also have more say over the type of medicine practiced at a specific clinic when working part-time. Since a relief veterinary job is considered as more of a substitute position,these veterinarians usually will not get the chance to impact change or protocols. Having a seat at the table can help make a job feel more fulfilling than just going along for the ride without any decision-making power or input.
You Can Curate a Better Work-Life Balance With Options to Flex Up or Down When Needed
Veterinarians typically have long hours of high-stress, rewarding work ahead of them every single day. In order to stay excited and continuously bring their best selves to work, there needs to be a good work-life balance in place.
Missing out on important life moments can lead veterinarians to resent their jobs, which can ultimately affect their quality of work. That’s why it’s important for all parties involved that vets (and all professionals!) have things to look forward to outside of work and feel present in their daily lives. At VetEvolve, we believe that happier vets really do make for happier pets and pet owners. We know well-rested professionals are more animated by their work and will be able to give more energy and effort to their jobs on a daily basis.
Being a relief veterinarian helps with this, as it allows vets to choose and claim their own shifts where and when they want to work. This makes relief work a great option for veterinarians who want to spend more time with family, dedicate their attention to other interests, or work in a variety of new, exciting environments and locations that keeps their work diverse and interesting.
Similarly, being a part-time vet allows a level of flexibility for veterinary professionals to feel present in their lives. If a long-term circumstance becomes a priority outside of work, a part-time vet will be able to negotiate flexing down their work schedule to focus on other areas while still having dependable work.
Since relief veterinary work depends on demand, it may be harder for a relief worker to plan their schedule and ensure they have enough work around other responsibilities, especially amidst personal life stress. A part-time veterinarian will have more support through potentially anxiety-inducing life events and won’t have to worry about managing every aspect of their career on top of their personal life.
It Provides You More Opportunity in a Labor Shortage Market
The demand for veterinarians is currently high and projected to grow 17% from 2020 to 2030. About 4,400 openings per year are predicted in the veterinary field throughout this decade. So for students that are considering veterinary school, it is not only a highly rewarding but also a stable, job-producing path.
This means there is vast opportunity for both current and future veterinary professionals, and, in lieu of being able to fill all those open full-time positions, part-time and relief veterinarians are and will continue to be incredibly high in demand. With high caseloads and positions needed faster than they can be filled, veterinarians can use all the help they can get. And both relief and part-time veterinarians can feel satisfied knowing that the work they do truly helps other professionals and the animals in their care.
Whether You’re Sold on Becoming a Part-Time or Relief Veterinarian or Want to Explore Full-Time Positions, VetEvolve Can Help
At VetEvolve, our philosophy is to focus on our people first so they can focus on helping animals. We’re known for helping veterinarians at every stage of their career find and keep their passion for veterinary work, and we’re committed to helping you have a happy, fulfilling career that lasts.
Our dedicated, people-focused mentors will support you from the beginning and at every point going forward. Through challenges like high stress, self-doubt, or moments when personal life gets in the way, we’re there, listening, and ready to assist in advising your career decisions. We’re not just practice owners, we truly foster a family environment. We care about you and your experience and work hard at our jobs to make yours easier.
In times of triumph, our incentive program will reward your hard work. And our great benefits and continuing education support will help you feel secure in your job and continuously move forward toward your goals.