Incorporating Relief Veterinarians to Prevent Burnout

Veterinary consolidators seeking to improve their bottom lines should strive to prevent burnout in the workforce of any practice. Enhancing productivity and shoring up morale is best done by incorporating relief veterinarians into the workforce, although this is often easier said than done. By first understanding the role of a relief veterinarian, consolidators and practice owners can ensure they successfully prevent burnout by integrating these important professionals into their operations.

What is a Relief Veterinarian?

Relief veterinarians are skillful professionals who can take over for one of your veterinarians when they step away from the clinic. If a planned vacation or unexpected family emergency draws one of your clinicians away from a practice for an extended period of time, a relief veterinarian can be summoned to ensure the practice still has the workforce needed to meet client needs. Many veterinarians work themselves to the bone, fearing that things may fall apart in their absence; relief veterinarians exist to let these regular professionals take much deserved breaks without having to be concerned about the continuity of the practice. 

These as-needed veterinary professionals don’t only exist to take over from full-time vets, either. Relief veterinarians can also be hired to help a clinic when it’s dealing with a particularly high volume of cases in a short period of time. These temporary professionals can help hospitals manage an influx of patients during allergy or holiday seasons without excessively stressing the organizational structure.

Other great reasons to hire a relief vet could be growing the hospital clientele to hire another DVM, allergy season, holiday season, hospital running a special for “dental month”

Kayleigh S. Foster, DVM, Core Relief Veterinarian at Roo

Practice owners who want to avoid overstretching and exhausting their current workforce frequently rely on relief professionals when running temporary special offers to bring in new patients. Relief veterinarian jobs should thus be on the radar of those seeking to prevent employee burnout while also expanding their practice. 

Consolidators should pay particularly close attention to relief veterinary professionals during pandemics or other high-stress periods. Professionals may be dealing with unusually high levels of workplace stress or disruptions to their home lives, which can in turn lead to burnout. As more  step away for the sake of their own wellbeing, hiring a relief veterinarian will become more important to ensure the smooth running of a practice.

The Organizational Role of a Relief Veterinarian

Relief veterinarian jobs play a vital role in ensuring the continuity of patient care. Clients with animals in need of urgent treatment will not care why a practice can’t meet their needs but will instead just look elsewhere for the care they’re seeking. Relief veterinarians thus provide an organization with the professional capacity needed to provide continuous medical and emotional support to clients who may otherwise defect to competitors in their hour of need.

Shoring up the productivity of a recently acquired practice thus entails relying on relief veterinary professionals. Temporary professionals can cover shifts when full-time professionals are called away and can help a new practice deal with an unexpected influx of patients after a consolidation occurs. Ultimately, these relief professionals ensure that a consolidation can be successfully completed without exhausting or overstressing the vital workforce that keeps a practice up and running. 

Paying a relief veterinarian salary can help a clinic avoid a serious loss of income that occurs when the workforce is stretched too thin to meet the needs of clients. It can also help a consolidator capture the value of new patients who can only be treated with the help of auxiliary relief staffers that expand treatment capacity. This extra capacity prevents having to turn new clients away due to a manpower shortage. They are more likely to return to the practice once the regular veterinary staff is back on board.

Consolidators can never forget the value of these locum vet jobs – called such because of their temporary nature – when it comes to expanding organizational capacity during a crisis. They make the difference between exhausting your workforce or keeping it in top shape during high volume periods.

Relief Veterinarian Work Insights

Relief veterinarians have many insights which can contribute to the smooth running of a practice, especially when it comes to burnout prevention, compassion fatigue, and other personnel problems. Relief vets remind consolidators that organizational flexibility should be a priority, as these relief clinicians must often take on multiple roles in a relatively short time span. They also illustrate the importance of fostering a welcoming workplace culture, as relief veterinary techs must fit in with the current workforce to provide meaningful assistance.

A tolerant workplace culture won’t only serve to help relief veterinarians, either. It will also make a practice an enticing place to work for young veterinary professionals seeking a modern workplace that’s considerate of their unique needs, such as respecting work-life balance.. Practice owners and consolidators looking to create relief veterinarian jobs should realize that doing so will also help attract new professionals to their ranks. By ensuring your practice environment is flexible and welcoming, you’ll be avoiding the hazard of professional burnout that can deplete your workforce.

Relief vets help avoid the key burnout triggers that plague practices:

  •  A lack of control
  • Insufficient rewards
  • Value conflicts
  • Work overload
  • Community breakdown
  • Unfairness

Only once consolidators understand that relief veterinarians can help them avoid these triggers, will professional burnout be prevented before it harms the wellbeing of your staff.In addition to preventing burnout, relief professionals also deliver other boons to hospitals; a relief veterinarian can teach underutilized technicians new skills or techniques that can be applied in the future to better assist clients. They may be capable of making unique recommendations related to medication or prescriptions which they know from experience worked at a different location. In short, they not only deliver relief to full-time professionals but also endow them with unique insights and helpful skills. 

Searching for Relief Vets

Despite the fact that relief veterinarians are a crucial part of avoiding burnout, hiring them can be a difficult process. Consolidators and practice owners must ensure that the relief veterinarians they hire can step in for an experienced professional who is called away from their duties. They must also guarantee that the relief vet won’t exacerbate workplace conflict by clashing with the personalities that make up your everyday workforce.

According to Dr. Carin Smith, a top challenge for relief veterinarians is “adapting to many different practice styles, cultures, policies and medical approaches, as well as working with a variety of people and varying numbers of staff members with varying abilities,” she told VIN News. This requires that consolidators ensure their relief veterinarian jobs are going to clinicians who can adapt to a new workplace culture in addition to having the technical expertise needed to succeed. Otherwise, clients and your current personnel may be alienated by the temporary relief professional you bring aboard.

Practice owners should also search for a relief veterinarian who understands the value of communication. A relief vet who can’t speak with clients or their direct superiors will be a poor fit for an organization that’s in desperate need of additional clinicians during a high volume period of work.Transparent communication is an essential part of ensuring relief veterinarians can achieve their goals; practice owners should clearly communicate what is expected from a relief professional before they arrive, such as which tasks they’re expected to manage and whether they’ll be handling wellness, illness, or emergency situations with patients. 

“The biggest problem I’ve had with relief vets in general is them not communicating with me,” one practice owner recounted to VIN. Consolidators must understand that lackluster communication can quickly lead to cultural erosion, a leading cause of professional burnout. Temporary relief hires must be familiar with the same communication tools and standards relied upon by the regular clinicians they’re helping. Relief professionals cannot be expected to maintain continuity of practice unless they’re properly briefed by practice owners and those they’re taking over for. 

Requirements

When looking to integrate a new relief veterinarian into your workforce, there are a number of requirements which must be met. In addition to standard licensing requirements which guarantee that your relief vet  is a qualified professional, you should also assess their communication skills, work history, and personality to determine if they’re the right fit for your practice. Consolidators should understand that relief veterinarians who excelled at one clinic on their CV may not be an ideal candidate at a separate clinic with a fundamentally different workplace culture.

Avoiding professional burnout entails that you verify the relief veterinarian’s professional credentials, but also requires that you speak with your current team to understand what kind of assistance they need. Some veterinarians may need a relief hire that can help them deal with clients who have unrealistic expectations, which would entail better than average communicative and emotional talents. Others may simply need a qualified professional who can help them deal with a backlog of paperwork or excessive patient cases that are consuming all of their time.

A relief vet must be capable of managing odd hours, as full-time veterinarians can’t come in late at night while retaining their daytime work schedules. They may also be called upon to work holidays, as full-time professionals need time away with their families to avoid workplace fatigue. There are different sources for relief veterinarians which consolidators and practice owners should become familiar with.

Sources of Relief Vets

For many in the field of veterinary medicine, relief practice is not just a temporary gig but instead a full-time career. Consolidators looking to hire relief vets can find both experienced freelance relief workers and agencies that specialize in pairing relief professionals with practices in need of additional help.

Organizations like Roo provide job boards where practices can make posts about available positions. By creating personalized profiles, relief professionals and the practices they assist can better understand one another’s preferences before making a commitment. This allows those in need of relief to search pre-existing resume databases to find candidates who meet certain qualifications. 

Roo also provides expertise and answers related to relief veterinary medicine, which can be helpful to consolidators looking to familiarize themselves with it before making a hiring decision. By allowing relief veterinarians and technicians to find shifts with clearly established payouts, the platform effortlessly connects two parties to create a mutually beneficial relationship. 

Consolidators looking for qualified candidates frequently rely upon this platform, but individual relief veterinarians can be reached in other ways, too. Other online veterinary relief service platforms include Relief Rover, which offers veterinary staffing services to both individual practices and hospitals. Traditional job boards may have candidates who are an ideal fit for the available position, and vet hospitals shouldn’t hesitate to consult local job pages to find candidates who aren’t too far away to be a proper fit.

The Bottom Line

Relief veterinarians must be incorporated into any growing practice to avoid overextending your workforce and causing professional burnout in your clinicians. These relief professionals must possess stellar communication skills and may be required to interface with both vet techs and clients. They should be taught about the standards of the practice they’re assisting if consolidators and owners seek to make them long-term members of the team during high volume periods. 

Finding qualified candidates who meet your technical requirements and fit into your clinic’s workplace culture takes time but is a worthwhile process. Online service providers exist to help consolidators and practice owners find professionals to fill relief veterinarian openings, and can help determine an appropriate salary to offer. Relief veterinarians should be treated as a valued part of the team, as their continued role in your operations will ensure your regular workforce receives needed breaks and a helping hand during times of crisis. By following up with their own medical teams on the performance of relief professionals, practice owners can gain confidence in these temporary assistants and ensure that future hiring decisions are easier to make.

We wish to express our gratitude to our dear friend Kayleigh S. Foster, DVM, Core Relief Veterinarian at Roo, for sharing her expert opinion and insights as a full-time relief vet professional.