Taking the Leap: Advice for Your First Relief Shift

Ross Zimmerman
January 15, 2024

You did it! You downloaded the Roo app, filled out your profile, met with your Roo rep, and got approved — nice! But now, you’re staring at your shift map wondering if you’re ready for everything that happens next when you hit “request.” What will that first relief shift be like? Are you ready? (Are you terrified? Maybe…) If this describes you, you’re very much not alone, and this article is for you. 

In fact, this experience isn’t unique to those who are new to Roo: even seasoned relief vets and techs sometimes experience these same feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, and paralysis any time they take their first shift at a new clinic. It’s a venture into the unknown, and every first shift at a new hospital is, in some ways, a leap of faith. 

We asked our top vets to tell us about their early relief experiences using Roo and share their best advice for new vets. And as it turns out, a lot of this is great advice for relief work in general, especially when trying out a new clinic for the first time. 

“I too was hesitant to pick up my first shift on Roo,” recounts Dr. Roy Arredondo, a Roo Vet for 2 years. “As a small animal veterinarian, I was used to working alone, always relying on my knowledge and passion in caring for pets… Most clinics are very appreciative for relief veterinarians and provide plenty of support. Since then, I haven’t looked back, and I’m glad I made the decision months later to work full-time as a relief veterinarian utilizing Roo.”

Without further ado, here are our top tips from out top vets:

1. Start slow and build on what you know

Roo is a whole world waiting to be explored, take it one step at a time. There are so many hospitals on the platform and each one is different.

"Whenever I get nervous about a relief shift at a new hospital, I tell myself if it is not a good fit, then I don't have to come back. I also remind myself that the medicine is the same no matter where you work (you may need to ask a million times where items are located). That is the beauty of relief that you can easily discover hospitals that best align with your needs.” 

— Dr. Michelle Burch, Roo Vet since October 2022

"To help combat any new-hospital-nervousness, I make sure to only ever book myself for one to two shifts at a clinic for the first time to get a feel for the clinic, their staff, their clients, etc. If I have a good time then I’ll schedule more, if we don’t jive then I just don’t book more after that. This helps take some pressure off as I view the first one to two shifts as a trial run.”

— Dr. Colette Angel, Roo Vet since January 2023

"It's very normal to feel nervous prior to working at a new clinic, especially if it is your first ever relief shift! Luckily, most hospitals will have similar appointment flows, diagnostic capabilities, medications, and clientele — especially hospitals that use Roo. Most hospitals will also be grateful for you for helping keep their doors open and their clients seen.”

— Dr. Travis Delucia, Roo Vet since August 2021

"I was really nervous leading up to my first shift, but choosing a hospital with good reviews and being intentional about putting myself in a supportive hospital paid off and it was easy!"

— Dr. Mckayla Meyer, Roo Vet since October 2023

Roo’s hospital profiles and ratings exist for a reason! If you’re feeling anxious, play it safe — take a first shift at a hospital the Roo community agrees is great, and if you have a good experience, leave a review for the next relief veterinarians and technicians so they know which hospitals are a good place to start!

2. Arrive early

Perhaps the biggest theme to emerge from this was the importance of arriving early for your first shift, especially at a new hospital. 

"My number one piece of advice for anyone starting out to relieve stress is to get to the practice EARLY and familiarize yourself with the pharmacy, people, flow, etc… Taking this initiative will make the staff trust you more and give you the chance to relax before the hectic day to day veterinary work.” 

— Dr. Tyler Russell, Roo Vet since January 2022

"I’m always a little nervous about going to a new hospital… I make sure to arrive at the hospital earlier than requested so I have time to really settle in, meet the staff, take a look around the facility, and feel comfortable before my shift starts.” 

— Dr. Kelli Puccio, Roo Vet since December 2022

"I arrive early to a new hospital to make sure I get familiar with the staff and layout of the hospital and can get comfortable with the computer system. I always make sure to have a point person to go to with questions during the day, usually this is the practice manager or lead tech, that can help me understand how the practice flows and answer any computer questions.”

— Dr. Julia Campbell, Roo Vet since March 2021

3. You're never alone! Don't be afraid to ask questions

"I was very nervous for my first ever relief shift, however, I quickly learned that the clinics are expecting me and are well spoken on the process of showing me around, making sure the staff know who I am, appointing a point-person technician I can trust (usually the lead tech), and sitting down with me to make sure I understand the medical records and flow of the clinic.” 

— Dr. Nicole Gasparin, Roo Vet since August 2022

"Roo makes it easy to communicate with your hospital once your shift is confirmed - take advantage of this! I find that having a conversation (either through a phone call or an email) with the practice owner or medical director ahead of time always helps — this way I can get a better idea of what kind of day it's going to be, what they expect from me, and vice versa… I always try to remind myself that the staff understands this is a new experience for you and are generally understanding if you have questions throughout the day. I always end the day with a ‘thank you for your help’ to each staff member and try to give compliments throughout the day to leave a good impression and help put the staff at ease as well.” 

— Dr. Julia Campbell, Roo Vet since March 2021

"Roo shift cards will let you know a lot about your shift, and if you have additional questions, you can always reach out to the hospital and ask. Knowing what to expect and what will be expected of you is a great way to reduce stress. 
The beauty of Roo is I get information about a clinic that eases most of my nerves (i.e. software used, appointment flow, types of appointments seen). Discuss [with the hospital] ahead of time what you are comfortable doing so there are no surprises the day of. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance from staff. Generally, they are welcoming and happy to assist.”

— Dr. Christina Singh, Roo Vet since February 2021

"Roo can help too, and we love talking with you! Always feel free to email hello@roo.vet or call 1-833-Roo-Vets (833-766-8387) if you have questions.
Reaching out to your local Roo representative can be helpful as they can have a hospital answer any specific questions you have before a shift and even provide an example of what your schedule might look like!”

— Dr. Travis Delucia, Roo Vet since August 2021

4. Try new things, the possibilities are endless

Having so many options means dozens, if not hundreds, of possibilities. Use this as an opportunity to learn, explore new ways of practicing, or simply gain new perspectives.

Dr. Mary McAllister (Roo Vet since September 2022) has this advice:

  • It's only a day, I can do anything for a day. 
  • It's okay if I have a poor day — I do not have to go back. 
  • I might have the time of my life! 
  • You never know who you are going to meet or were meant to meet.
  • I might be the exact person that client, pet, or both needed today — i.e. maybe I am supposed to be there. 
  • I might be the doctor that staff needs to be around today or maybe that team is exactly the support I need.
  • If I do not take this shift, maybe I am missing out!

Sometimes trying new things can even send your career in a new, unexpected direction!

"After starting an MBA program, I knew that a traditional full time emergency veterinary schedule would not work for me and wanted to try out relief. I had worked only ER since graduating in 2021 and was nervous to try out relief as a newer grad with little small animal general practice experience… Since, starting with Roo in November, I have transitioned to working relief full time and I love the flexibility and lifestyle it affords me.”

— Dr. Mckayla Meyer, Roo Vet since October 2023

5. Be up front and honest with clients and staff

It’s okay to be honest and say, “I’m a relief vet.” If you’re dealing with a returning client, it’s probably going to be pretty obvious you’re not the face they usually see. And that’s okay!  

"Be transparent with clients. If I’m not sure how something is done at a particular practice, I let them know I’m a relief vet, I’m not sure, but we will look into XYZ and get back to them. Most people are understanding.”

— Dr. Christina Singh, Relief Vet since February 2021

"The best advice I can offer for your first shifts is be honest, open, a hard worker, and make an effort to get to know your support staff. It also helps to have resources, like VIN, plumbs, and your own templates for discharges ready. Good luck!” 

— Dr. Mckayla Meyer, Roo Vet since October 2023

6. Have fun!

Because why not?

"My next most important piece of advice is to above all else HAVE FUN. Relief work may be stressful at first but once you develop the muscle of being comfortable being uncomfortable and have fun in this space, everything will flow and you will love the flexibility relief work can offer you. Best of luck to all!”

— Dr. Tyler Russell, Relief Vet since January 2022

Final bits of advice

It may be your first relief shift or your first experience at a new hospital, but chances are, this isn’t the hospital’s first shift. They’ve done this before, and the hospital and their staff know what to expect too. “More often than not, these clinics are in great need of help and want to make sure you have a good experience so that you come back to help again,” says Dr. Nicole Gasparin.

"Most importantly, remind yourself that you are there to help keep their doors open and help animals, so every hospital (and their clients) value your presence." 

— Dr. Julia Campbell, Roo Vet since March 2021

We know you’re going to do great — that’s what that meeting was all about before we approved your profile! Go in with confidence, enjoy the adventure, and if you need help, you’re surrounded by people who WANT to lend a hand. With Roo, you’re never alone.  

We truly hope your first relief shift is an amazing experience you’ll remember fondly.  

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