What is Relief Work?

Ross Zimmerman
September 7, 2023

What is veterinary relief work? Quite simply, it’s when a veterinarian, technician, or pretty much any healthcare professional fills in for another professional who’s absent. Alright, we’re done here, let’s pack it up. 

Seriously though, there’s much more to the story. 

Veterinary professionals are people with lives

This is by no means a novel concept but one that absolutely needs acknowledging (especially in vet med): Veterinarians, technicians, and practice managers are people too! People with families. People who have children and need parental leave to raise them. People who have important life events like weddings and funerals. People who get sick. People who deserve a vacation. People who need time off.   

At the same time, veterinary professionals have multiple years of training and expertise, decades-worth if we take into account CE, which we absolutely should. This means it’s no simple task to replace one of these professionals. Lives are literally in their hands multiple times a day. The only acceptable replacement for a veterinarian or technician is another veterinarian or technician with comparable experience and expertise.  

Experts helping experts

So what are we to do? A veterinary professional taking time off could mean fewer animals getting treated that day, which could mean longer waits and lower revenue, which could eventually lead to a beloved animal hospital closing down. Single-vet practices may have to close completely if their only veterinarian takes the day off. Yikes.

The solution is to help each other. Talented veterinarians and technicians can step in for a day, a week, or more to support a hospital’s healthcare needs while staff members take time off. In fact, another name for relief work is locum tenens, which is latin for “holding one’s place,” and that's exactly what's happening. An outside medical professional is holding the place of a full-time professional so they can get a break.  

This type of work is often performed as contract work, which is where the logistics of relief work can become a bit more challenging and complicated. 

Veterinary relief services platforms

In the old days, which was actually not so long ago, relief work was negotiated independently on a vet-by-vet/tech-by-tech basis. Vets and techs would approach hospitals in their network to be considered for relief work and earn extra income where they could, and hospitals would keep a contact list of vets and techs they could call to try to find coverage. 

"Getting my relief business up and running was a slow and manual process,” says Roo Lead Veterinarian, Dr. Andrew Findlaytor, recounting his time as a full-time relief vet in the before times, a.k.a. 2015. "I printed out resumes and drove from practice to practice, handing them out and doing formal introductions. Pricing at that time was a bit of a guessing game, and payments came in anywhere from weekly to quarterly depending on the hospital."

And that’s before we even dip a toe into the “contract” part of contract work. As this article from DVM360 so eloquently put it, there are actually four parties involved in relief work: the vet/tech, the hospital, and of course, the IRS and the government — local, state, and federal, oh my. That’s a lot to navigate on your own. There had to be a better way…

And today, there is! Relief work platforms like Roo, Relief Rover, and Indevets work hard to connect vets and techs with hospitals looking for someone to fill-in for their full-time staff members taking time off. Each platform works a little differently and has its pros and cons, but ultimately, all these apps and websites have the same goal: make relief work easier for veterinary professionals and hospitals. 

This gives hospital management more comfort allowing their staff to take time off and hopefully leads them to provide staff with even more sick days and PTO. Simultaneously, this results in more work for vets and techs in search of extra income. No more digging through contacts to call hospitals one by one, platforms like Roo make it easy to see exactly which hospitals need coverage and when. In seconds flat! This could explain why a growing number of veterinary professionals are shifting to full or part-time relief work.  

What is veterinary relief work, really?      

Relief work is an answer to a particularly tricky problem in a selfless, caregiving industry where personal needs can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. It’s a way for skilled, medically-trained professionals to help each other by filling in for their peers so they can take much-needed time off and more of it. It provides extra income to vets, techs, and hospitals. 

Perhaps the ultimate answer to this question has been staring us in the face all along. What is relief work? It provides relief: to veterinary professionals, their wallets, their mental well-being, and to the hospitals that employ them. 

What a relief.  

Related resources

More from Roo4You
More from Roo4You