Wednesday, August 28, 2013


When I started doing relief veterinary work it was supposed to be temporary.  As I suspect most people do, I started relief work out of convenience and necessity.  I always thought I would eventually go back to the "right" full time job.  I regularly browsed the ads for this "right" job.  But, as time passed I realized that I didn't really love private practice. I don't hate it, but I don't love it.  I also don't have any desire to work in industry (drug or food companies), public health, or government.  I have also been unable to talk myself into going back to school for a residency.  Now, it has been nearly 4 years and I just realized I no longer look for that "right" job.  Apparently I have already found it.

There are some down sides to this arrangement of course.  Obviously lack of job security is the biggest one. But I have managed to find enough work for the last 4 years so I expect I really don't need to worry so much.  The next biggest is no benefits.  But I didn't have great benefits at my last job and Jerry's job has insurance for us both so this really didn't hit me that hard.  And although I have no paid vacation as it turns out I can take unpaid vacation by working enough to make up for it and still make as much or more money as I did before.

Another down side is that not every clinic has state of the art equipment or practices the best medicine.  So unless you are only doing relief work at upscale clinics in well-to-do neighborhoods you might as well just get over this.  That's not to say that you need to do anything you are uncomfortable with or feel is unethical.  Most clinic owners are ok with any limitations you have.  If not, just don't go back there.

Some clinics also have better staff than others.  But it seems most places where the owner is willing to leave town and let staff run the place have at least some of them trained pretty well.  I think I've been mostly pretty lucky in the staff I have had to work with in this time.

Depending on your need for work and location, you may need to travel, or work undesirable times like weekends and a lot during summer or around holidays.  

Also you must remember to save money to pay taxes with.  And it's going to be more than you think.  Overestimate. Better to have some left over!

There is also lack of client relationships.  Although I do have some "regular" clinics that I work at every week I still don't get much of a chance to develop relationships with clients and manage cases long term.  Partly because I end up doing a lot of surgery and partly because I am just not there enough and we end up sharing cases.  Although I think this makes some of my medical skills a little rusty I realized that over the 5 years I worked at All Creatures there are really only a handful of clients that I actually looked forward to seeing and missed when I left.

I know that seemed like a lot of negative but,  there are some significant upsides.

At first, I had to take whatever work I could get.  But now, I pretty much work when I want.  I almost never work Saturdays.  Really, I could never work them if I didn't want to but it's nice to help someone out from time to time-builds a good relationship with clinics you like.  And if I want a 3 day weekend for trials or travel I don't work Fridays.  I did this a lot while Legend was working on her MACH. If there is something I want to do during the week, I don't work that day.  If I want 4 weeks of vacation a year, I take it.  I like to work about 3.5-4 days a week.  Often I work more if we are saving for a vacation or a remodeling project.  Or I work more when it's available since there can be a slow time in the winter.  Right now I am pretty much booked up to the end of the year minus time I had planned to take off.

It allows for variety.  I get to go into a lot of clinics, meet a lot of people, see different ways of doing things, different drugs, etc.  I also get to do some spay/neuter and shelter work.

At the end of the day, nothing is my problem.  Not sick pets, not staff issues, management problems, broken equipment, unhappy clients.  Nothing.  I just get to pick up my stuff and go home.  I also don't have any extra responsibilities.  I don't have to run staff meetings, write newsletters, update websites etc.

It's not a life for everybody.  I don't think anyone goes into vet school with the expectation that this is where they will end up.  I certainly didn't.  But it works for me, it fills a need and it's something for other vet readers to consider if they are looking for a change.


Diana said...

I'm glad you found what works for you. And people like to still be able to go to the vet even when the vet needs a vacation.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I keep getting asked if I intend to work ER for the rest of my life. So far, the answer is yes, I intend to keep doing this for the foreseeable future. I have worked a few relief shifts and haven't minded it as much as I thought I would. I don't think doing it long term would work for me as I am unmarried and thus do not have any other options for health insurance. But I'm starting to look at what other options are available to see if any are appealing or doable. Not to take up or pursue in the immediate future, but to put on the back of my mind of how to move towards that when the time is right. I love teaching, but with only years experience in the field and no specialty training or a Masters degree in anything, I don't think I qualify.

Karissa said...

I always assumed you worked in a regular clinic -- the type of work/lifestyle you describe actually sounds fascinating. How wonderful to be able to experience such freedom with your scheduling and to get to change things up so much.