Best Practices for Relief Veterinarian in Larger Vet Organizations

Are you a relief veterinarian preparing to join a larger organization? Here’s how to get off to a galloping start.


Navigating a large veterinary network is a different concept from working at a local clinic. Relief veterinarians who are enlisted to support larger vet organizations may find the prospect of joining a larger corporate family to be intimidating. By reviewing the best practices in this sector, they can quiet internal concerns and confidently approach their first day at the larger organization.

Consolidation is becoming more common

The veterinary industry is undergoing a sea of change; the ongoing pandemic has led to sudden technological changes across the industry, and the practice of corporate consolidation is growing more common with each passing year.


Younger veterinary professionals at the start of their careers are increasingly faced with a choice between smaller organizations and larger, more corporate networks. It was recently pointed out at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine that enticing salaries and benefits are increasingly luring new industry talent toward larger vet organizations.


Those relief veterinarians who are entering a larger organization for the first time must prepare for a different cultural environment than what they may be used to. Veterinary locums who are used to quickly acclimating to smaller clinics must recognize that it may take longer to integrate into a larger organization.


Avoiding burnout as a relief veterinarian

Veterinary locums attempting to integrate into larger organizations should focus on avoiding personal burnout while easing the burdens of their colleagues. It won’t always be possible for you to prioritize the bottom line. Instead, your focus should be on the wellbeing of your fellow professionals who you were brought in to support during a period of high demand.


To that end, relief veterinarians should learn to recognize the common symptoms of burnout. Emotional fatigue, physical exhaustion, botched patient care, and lackluster communication from a professional who’s normally quite dependable are all warning signs to be aware of.


Be prepared to juggle the contradictory objectives of avoiding personal exhaustion while lightening the load of other workers. You may be required to work at strange hours to ensure permanent staff aren’t kept awake for days on end, for instance.


When your own personal wellbeing is ensured and a positive workplace is being fostered for all, it’s far easier to deliver relief value to the larger organization you’re temporarily assisting.


The powers of observation

You’re about to join a much larger organization with a dynamic company culture you could be totally unfamiliar with. Harnessing your powers of observation to understand and acclimate to the local culture will be essential to your success.


Politely inquire about:


  • Office étiquette. Seek details about dress standards and the work environment.


  • Schedule expectations. When exactly will you be working? Which vets in this network need the most relief? What’s the expected duration of your employment?


  • Communication standards. What tools will you be using to communicate? You’ll want to become familiar with their Slack setup or any other internal messaging system.


  • The parameters of your job. Never be afraid to ask questions, as relief veterinarians should be readily prepared to digest new information and implement it into their routines. Don’t know if something is your responsibility? Ask about it.

Mistakes to avoid

Relief veterinarians must walk a fine line between temporarily helping an organization and disrupting their established routines with changes to the system. There are some crucial mistakes that could damage your future relationship with this veterinary organization if you don’t take steps to avoid them ahead of time.


  • Antagonizing permanent professionals. Your role is to provide relief to full-time veterinarians at this organization. Generate discord in the office or stress in the clinic, and you’ll end up harming the same professionals you’re trying to help.


  • Providing inconsistent levels of care. Fail to meet the standards of care at this new organization and clients will quickly become angry. Take care to familiarize yourself with the local standards of care and never cut corners during treatment.


  • Taking all the blame. While you don’t want to irk permanent employees, you should never unjustly accept blame for something that wasn’t your fault. Relief veterinarians make ideal scapegoats, given their newcomer status at an organization, so be sure to stand up for yourself if blame is being pinned on you for no good reason.


  • Tolerating abuse for a paycheck. Working conditions are tough right now; an ongoing shortage of veterinarians and heightened consumer demand means we’re all a little overworked right now. That’s no excuse for tolerating abuse from senior leaders. Never accept a hostile workplace in an industry that’s sorely in need of your talent.


Breathing a sigh of relief

Relief veterinarians who are concerned about an approaching gig should try their best to avoid stressing out. The vast majority of veterinary professionals you’ll soon be working with will be incredibly grateful for the support you’re about to provide. Clients will also doubtlessly breathe a sigh of relief when they see their pets are in your good hands.


Finding success as a relief vet depends on avoiding burnout, both in yourself and in others. It demands a respect for the organization’s pre-existing practices and a willingness to maintain stellar standards when treating patients. Perhaps above all else, it takes an agreeable personality and professional competence to successfully integrate into a larger network.


Ready to deliver relief? Keep these practices in mind as you move into a large vet organization and soon you’ll be providing valued assistance to our overworked veterinarians.




Thank you to our partner Veterinary Integration Solutions (VIS)

Veterinary Integration Solutions (VIS) enhances veterinary businesses by bringing proven processes, modern technologies, and the deep domain expertise to the rapidly growing veterinary consolidation market.