3 Secrets to Make your Relief Vet Shifts go Smoothly

Dr. Andrew Findlaytor
February 16, 2022

Relief veterinarians have it all: freedom, high income, flexibility in their schedules. (Did I mention freedom?) So what does it take to excel as a relief vet?

Here are three tips:

Keep an open mind

To start with, go into each practice with an open mind. Every hospital I’ve gone to—from the biggest, most advanced specialty hospital to the smallest—has something they do really well and something they struggle with. Even the smallest hospitals (I worked at one with just one doctor and one receptionist) have something they do better than other hospitals.

By keeping your mind open and being a veterinary chameleon, you’ll be able to fully experience each unique setting and also learn a few things along the way!

Take time to connect with clients

One of the keys to being a successful veterinarian is relationship building. But how do you build a relationship in a short amount of time?

First, referring to yourself as a traveling veterinarian establishes credibility. I try to support and justify in the client's mind that they are left in the best of hands by saying things like, “Dr. A has been working six days a week and needed a day to catch up on life and get a short break. She called me in because she knows she can trust me with her facility while she is away. How can I help?”

This kind of introduction establishes that Dr. A put thought into the continued care of the client, even when the doctor is not actually there. It establishes a layer of trust between owner and relief vet in a visible way. It reflects positively on the owner-veterinarian as both a hard worker and a real human being who occasionally takes time off.

Phrases like, “I have reviewed all of Fluffy’s records, but I still want to make sure I am thorough and have not missed anything,” and, “Can we review Fluffy’s previous/current medical issues?” conveys to the client that you are prepared, professional, and caring.

Leave clear records

Recordkeeping can be a major time vacuum, so taking notes in a personal notebook throughout the day can make record writing much more efficient.

Note the name of each patient, any abnormal lab findings, and your suspected diagnosis. You will find that writing down an ultra-brief summary can help streamline your thought process and record-writing skills. I actually use a digital template of a physical-exam checklist so I can access it wherever I go.

I also like to give clients handouts with reference information. (One of my favorite resources is Veterinary Partner.) This further facilitates a paper trail for the regular DVM because clients don’t always remember the details of a diagnosis, but they’ll often keep handouts and sometimes even present them at the next visit.

When transferring cases, outline your intended steps to the client during the visit and word things in such a way that you provide an easy transition for the doctor on staff.

By doing this, you set up your colleagues for success when they see the patient again. And by keeping an open mind, connecting with clients, and leaving a paper trail, you’re establishing yourself as a valued resource for our veterinary community.

What secrets can you share with your fellow relief vets or vet techs to help them be more successful? Email us at hello@roo.vet. Your tips may be featured in an upcoming blog post!

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