Animal hospital
Black and White headshot of IndeVets Employee Matt
Words by:
Matt Shivers — VP of Hospital Success at IndeVets

Practice managers often turn to veterinary relief services when they’re facing a staffing shortage or need a doctor to fill in for an associate vet who’s out on maternity leave. When full-time veterinarians come back from maternity leave or understaffing issues are addressed, it’s not uncommon for clinics to stop scheduling relief shifts.

However, relief veterinarians are not just a solution for temporary vacation coverage. Clinics that continue to use them – even when they’re fully staffed and operating smoothly – are able to increase revenue and profit, reduce vet burnout, and grow their practice at a healthy pace. Here’s how.


#1. Retain your staff by creating a healthier, happier workplace

Veterinary clinics are in a precarious position, even if they don’t realize it. A recent survey found that a startling 87% of US veterinarians had ProQOL (professional quality of life) burnout scores in the moderate to high range. Many veterinarians, fed up with an unsustainable work/life balance, are leaving the field altogether – compounding the national vet shortage.

Even though burnout is prevalent, it’s also easy to miss the warning signs from the outside, which means clinics who aren’t careful can end up pushing their doctors to a breaking point.

Rather than trying to do damage control, clinics can use relief veterinarians regularly to create a healthier work life balance for their associates. With more doctors to share the load, you can make their workload more manageable and allow them to take time off to recharge without feeling guilty. This can stop burnout in its tracks, leading to a thriving workplace and better employee morale. A good company culture is more important than ever when it comes to retention.


#2. Help more pets (and keep clients happy)

Pet parents don’t want to have to wait several weeks for an appointment, especially if they feel their pet’s needs are urgent.  The Washington Post details how many clients started experiencing vet delays during the pandemic – having to wait weeks for an available appointment at their vet, even when their animal was sick. Many owners ultimately opted to drive to clinics further out.

Adding relief shifts to your regular weekly rotation allows you to offer more appointment slots, catch up on surgery backlogs, keep up with the increased demand for your services, and shorten wait times. More availability improves client satisfaction and loyalty, and pet parents will be grateful to avoid spending more money by having to turn to an urgent care facility. This not only leads to happier clients; it also reduces the likelihood of their pets developing serious problems due to a delay in care. Many issues that are treatable in the early stages can quickly become life-threatening if allowed to progress for days or weeks while pets wait for an open appointment slot.


#3. Boost Your Bottom Line

While hiring a relief vet may seem expensive upfront, they often more than pay for themselves.

Relief veterinary coverage allows clinics to generate extra revenue without asking existing associates to take on more work and risk burnout. The fewer empty appointment slots you have in the week, the better your profit margins. For example, adding one just IndeVet shift a week can bring in an average of $172,224 in additional annual revenue for your clinic.

Preventing burnout isn’t just great for your workers – it’s great for your business. We all know that proactive prevention is often much cheaper than treatment. This is as true for employee burnout as it is for medical care, and it shows in the data.

The cost of burnout per veterinarian ranges from $17,000- 25,000 a year – that’s the estimated cost of hiring, training, lost revenue, and similar variables. And that’s a conservative estimate – some researchers suggest a more reasonable figure would be 66-75% of the veterinarian’s salary. Clinics would be better off investing money in burnout prevention rather than paying the high price of losing a doctor or damaging employee morale.

Thousands of clinics hire relief vets as an extension to their veterinary team, even when they’re fully staffed, because they’ve seen how valuable (and profitable) it is to have additional doctors in their hospitals – and prevent burnout of their own vets.


#4. More Flexibility Means Fewer Growing Pains

Every growing clinic goes through periods where they need more help to meet patient demand, but not enough to justify hiring another full-time associate.

Scheduling a relief vet on a regular basis allows you to manage your growth without over-scheduling your existing vets. You can scale your business up or down as needed on a weekly basis. Being able to respond quickly to demand will help you expand at a healthy pace without taking on too much risk.

Onboarding a new full-time employee also takes time and resources – which you don’t always have a lot of when your schedule is packed. When you use a relief vet, you don’t need to worry about handling benefits, payroll, or time off – meaning you can focus on what matters, rather than complicating things by adding more HR work to your workload.


Post More Relief Shifts so Your Hospital Can Thrive

Relief veterinary coverage is not just for vacations or staff shortages. Adding a relief vet shift to your practice can make a noticeable difference. This change can not only help increase your profits but also lead to happier and less-stressed veterinarians – and enable your practice to accommodate more patients effectively.