Relief Veterinarian 101

Relief veterinarian 101

Learn more about relief work, including what a relief veterinarian does, how to become a relief veterinarian, and how IndeVets differs from traditional relief.

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What is a relief veterinarian?

A relief veterinarian, or locum veterinarian, is a temporary doctor who fills in for a permanent staff member. Unlike Associate Veterinarians, who typically work at one animal hospital, relief veterinarians work at multiple hospitals.

Traditionally, relief veterinarians are 1099 contract workers, who are responsible for finding their own shifts at veterinary hospitals looking for coverage, and for setting their own schedules. Relief veterinarians act like their own mini businesses, and are responsible for their own invoicing, accounting, taxes, collecting unpaid wages, etc., in addition to providing great care.


How is IndeVets different from traditional relief?

IndeVets’ model takes the best of relief work and combines it with the best of traditional Associate roles.

Similar to relief, all IndeVets are traveling veterinarians who can choose shifts at multiple partner hospitals. Unlike traditional relief vets however, all IndeVets are W2 employees, who get paid every 2 weeks (no following up with slow-to-pay clients) and receive full benefits, including health insurance, dental and vision insurance, 401K contributions and more.

Moreover, IndeVets aren’t responsible for finding their own clients. IndeVets’ existing partnerships with hundreds of animal hospitals means building your schedule is as easy as logging into our app and selecting the shifts that work for you. We take the headache out of scheduling and invoicing so you can focus on what matters most — practicing great medicine.

For more on transitioning from an Associate role to a relief role, check out “How to make the switch from Associate to Relief Vet.”

What is a relief veterinarian

What are the benefits of becoming a relief veterinarian?

Many doctors switch to relief for better schedule control. Unlike a traditional Associate role, which may require long hours or weekend shifts, relief vets can set their own schedule, which means more flexibility and more freedom.

But those are not the only benefits! Becoming a relief vet, or an IndeVet, also means no more office drama, and the opportunity to work at different practices and learn new techniques. You also will likely make more money! For more benefits, visit our blog on 5 benefits of relief work.

To read about why one doctor chose to do relief with IndeVets, click here.


What schedule does a relief veterinarian have?

One benefit of relief work is that doctors are able to set their own schedules by selecting what shifts they want to cover. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll work less — in fact, many relief doctors end up working more hours because they’re not great at saying no. Defining boundaries, and keeping them, can be a challenge for veterinarians, as we’re generally very nice people who don’t like to disappoint.

Additionally, some relief vets are hesitant to turn down work, as they don’t know when their next opportunity will arise. This uncertainty can lead to the same burnout many Associates deal with.

The same is not true with IndeVets. With hundreds of shifts to choose from, our doctors can rest easy about taking time off, knowing they won’t have any issue getting hours.


How do I become a relief veterinarian?

If you’re already a licensed veterinarian, you can become and work as a relief veterinarian. At IndeVets, we generally require all Associate IndeVets have at least 2 years of experience, so they’re experienced and confident enough to practice at multiple clinics. To learn more about becoming an IndeVet, click here.

For those looking to do relief vet work on their own, you’ll first need to decide whether to set up your relief business as a sole proprietorship or a corporate entity. You’ll also need to set up a bank account. Talk to your accountant to get set up.

The next step is finding hospitals that need coverage, which takes legwork. Start by reaching out to other doctors in your network to see if they need coverage. You can also advertise your services on Google, social media or veterinary networks.


How much does a relief veterinarian cost?

Costs for relief services vary depending on the veterinarian and where you’re located. Most relief vets charge by the hour.


How can I find a relief veterinarian for my practice?

Ask around! Not all relief vets are created equal, and not all relief companies vet their doctors so starting your search with trusted colleagues can help ensure your relief doctor is a high quality clinician. 

At IndeVets, all our doctors go through a rigorous application process, including background checks, clinical assessments and personality profiles, to ensure you’re getting a kind, competent clinician. IndeVets provides doctor profiles of each and every IndeVet, including video interviews, so you can get to know them before they walk in the door. To learn more about partnering with IndeVets, click here.

These are just a few differences between a flexible staffing solution like IndeVets and traditional relief. For more differences, see our blog on “Flexible staffing vs. Relief vets What’s the difference?”