At the time of writing this, I’ve been an Associate Relief Vet with IndeVets for just over 6 months. Many of you are probably sitting there – like I was at the beginning of last year – looking for a new start, wondering if relief work is right for you. Like many vets, I was struggling with burnout, high stress levels, and an overwhelming workload. I ignored my health for the sake of my patients and my clients, and after facing a health scare of my own, I knew something had to change.
Embracing the Transition to an Associate Relief Vet
While I had to take a leap of faith that it was the right move for me, hearing about my experience could help you decide if being a salaried relief vet is right for you too.
Here are some of the ways becoming an IndeVet changed my life and helped me love my job again.
1. More me time
With IndeVets, I build my schedule around my life and not the other way around. I get to choose when, where, and how much I work. I personally start picking days I don’t want to work and then back fill shifts around that. However, if you want to build week by week, do it! I love being able to go to different clinics every day while still having the ability to be consistent, like a mini home base if I want, to keep up with puppy appointments and follow up care. I’ve also found that I get out on time way more consistently than I used to. About 90% of the time, I’m out on time whereas I stayed late a lot in my old associate job.
With control over my schedule and the fact that I am no longer involved in office drama, I am so much more relaxed these days. I work weekends and holidays when I want to – not because I have to – and my days off are 100% off. I easily make it to my ninja classes (I’m training to compete in World Ninja League), get to the gym, and hang out with my dog and friends on a regular basis now. I even had the time and energy to start riding my horse again this summer.
At IndeVets, we also get an annual “Me-Time Money” stipend which you can use (as the name implies) for anything to support your physical or mental health. I’ve used mine on my ninja gym membership, travel, and pet bills. These are just a few of the things IndeVets offers that allow me to improve my quality of life, in whatever way I choose.
2. More learning and access to more tools
As an IndeVet, I have more resources than ever before. I have daily access to all 200+ (and counting) IndeVets online with whom I can chat about cases instantly on our Teams channel. It’s like having an ongoing chat with your smartest pals from vet school.
Depending on the needs of the clinic, sometimes I am the only vet, or I might be the second or even third doc to help cover appointments for the day. When I am on staff with other vets, I am constantly learning new skills and ways to treat diseases. Being able to discuss cases in real time is invaluable. I love it when other vets ask my advice, and I am not shy about asking for another opinion on a case. Since starting relief work, I have confirmed a dog’s pregnancy, gotten a urine sample from a cat whose bladder was too small to palpate, and found gall bladder debris via ultrasound with the help of our partner hospital’s vets. I didn’t have an ultrasound machine at my old clinic, so it has been great that several of them have taken the time to help me refresh skills I haven’t used since vet school.
If I’m the only vet in the clinic that day, I don’t have to worry about getting stumped on a case because I can run it by hundreds of IndeVet doctors in just a few minutes. On my days off, I often keep the IndeVets medical channel open to see what’s going on with my colleagues and offer help when I can.
With control over my schedule and the fact that I am no longer involved in office drama, I am so much more relaxed these days.”
3. More interesting cases
I’ve been in practice for almost 6 years, so I have seen some odd cases walk through the door, however, since I’ve been an IndeVet, I’ve been seeing a lot more of them. One practice is under the impression that the weird cases know when I’m there and just show up. (I’m inclined to believe them after this past week). Strange cases used to be a few times a year, now it feels like a weekly occurrence. This variety grows my skills with the challenge of it all.
I am a general practitioner, so my days usually consist of ear and skin infections, puppy vaccine appointments, UTIs, pancreatitis cases, and coughing dogs, etc. In the past 6 months I have had a patient with a dislocated shoulder and hip, megacolon in a dog (which is very rare), an incidental BB pellet in a dog’s abdomen found on radiographs, a dog that ate a duck, a cat that ate a squirrel, and (probably craziest case yet) a cat who had come in for cat bite wounds only to discover it had actually been shot with a shot gun. Don’t worry, he survived and is doing well. And that’s just the short list.
4. More friends and colleagues
While I do miss my old staff, being an IndeVet has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of new people. It’s wonderful knowing how many good people are out there taking care of all the pets. I thoroughly enjoy learning about the vast scope of people’s interests wherever I go. I’ll go from talking about Broadway shows with a nurse at one clinic to nerdy TV shows with another at the next. Vet med is full of cool, diverse people, and it’s been fun getting to know so many new people.
I truly love what I do again. And I have a life outside of work again.”
5. More benefits & control
Most relief companies hire relief vets as independent contractors. That means even though the hourly pay may start out higher, you’ll be covering all your taxes and paying for all the lost benefits (like health insurance) out of your own pocket. Not to mention all the extra work that goes into running your own business. That was the part of relief work I didn’t want to deal with, and with IndeVets I don’t have to. With IndeVets, I’m a W2 employee and I get all of the benefits you’d expect from an associate job, like health insurance, PTO, licensing, parental leave, and continuing ed.
I also have more control over my earnings. As an IndeVet, I’m paid hourly, which means I get compensated for every minute I spend working. (No more unpaid overtime or long shifts!) Now, I always get paid for any additional work I do and can even get paid for drive time for some shifts. That also means I don’t have to worry about production and numbers anymore. I find I am practicing better medicine now that I don’t worry about how much I’m charging and what my gross billings were at the end of the day.
If I want to, I can increase my hourly rate by taking specialty shifts like ER, surgery, dentistry, or urgent care. And many of IndeVets partner hospitals now offer shifts with incentive bonus pay on top. There are endless opportunities to increase my income without taking on more hours – and all of them are my choice.
I am so much happier as a person.”
Becoming an IndeVet has certainly changed my life for the better. But it’s worth pointing out that you might put more miles on your car if you want to expand your clinic options. For me, I spend more time in the car than I used to, but I was spoiled with a 13-minute commute to my old clinic. My average commute is now about 30 minutes, but that’s partly by choice: two of my favorite clinics are almost an hour away and I snag those shifts quick. My shortest commute is 10 minutes.
While I was initially unsure and cautiously optimistic, I can now definitively say that becoming a relief vet with IndeVets has been a welcome change for me. And now 6 months later, I am so much happier as a person. Having a fulfilling veterinary career while living your life and taking care of yourself is, in fact, possible. Yes, there are stressful workdays, but I have so much support from the IndeVets team, and our partner hospital vets. I truly love what I do again. And I have a life outside of work again.