Cindy Trice, DVM, is the founder and CEO of Relief Rover, a platform connecting relief veterinarians and veterinary technicians to community, resources and jobs. As a relief veterinarian, Dr. Trice has extensive experience in small animal practice, emergency hospitals and shelter clinics. She earned her DVM at the University of California, Davis, and her bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies at Cornell University.Read Articles Written by Cindy Trice
In 1848, gold was found in a streambed near the American River in Northern California. Word spread, drawing more than 300,000 fortune seekers in what we now know as the California Gold Rush. The lure of striking it rich continues to cause people to take risks, rearrange their lives, disrupt relationships, and fill their imaginations with hope and visions of a new life. Nowadays, more veterinarians are leaving associate positions to start relief work. But what is driving the rush to relief? I’ll give a hint: It’s about more than money.
Let’s dive a little deeper and see who is choosing to become a relief veterinarian and why.
These veterinarians want to run their own businesses. They aim for complete autonomy in directing their careers. They don’t mind or perhaps even enjoy bookkeeping, marketing, client management and operations. Practice ownership, either mobile or brick and mortar, remains a consideration, as they can use relief work to observe different practice cultures, workflows and layouts.
These people need flexibility for child or elder care, hobbies, other businesses or managing their health. Relief practice helps them design flexible schedules to accommodate their competing responsibilities and desires.
These folks, with an urge to tap into their creative side, are the Swiss Army knives of veterinary medicine. They leverage their veterinary education and talents and learn other skills to provide clinical services and delve into things like writing, speaking, consulting, design, entrepreneurship, management and coaching. Often, their focus remains in the veterinary industry, but sometimes they create or take opportunities outside animal health. These lifelong learners constantly stretch and develop their qualifications to create satisfying and diverse career portfolios. They often value staying connected to clinical practice and will pick up relief shifts.
The Novelty Seekers
Like Diversifiers, these veterinarians thrive on variety. They become easily bored going to the same place day in and day out. They enjoy serving an assortment of practices to experience different environments and cultures. Unlike Diversifiers, they tend to stick with clinical practice and dabble in emergency medicine, general practice, shelter work, mobile practice, telehealth and even wildlife rehabilitation to keep things fresh. If they find a clinic they love, they might be open to part-time employment, but full time at one place typically won’t work for this bunch.
These veterinarians are burned out. They need a rest. A three-day weekend or two-week vacation won’t cut it. A longer sabbatical is necessary to reset their mental health. They might be thinking about leaving clinical practice or even the profession altogether. But they have bills to pay, so relief practice keeps their financial life going and gives them control of their schedule. With time for rest, perspective, self-care, family and friends, these clinicians often reignite their fire for veterinary medicine and find a way that works for them and that allows them to be amazing contributors to the profession.
The Escape Artists
Stories of toxic work cultures plague veterinary medicine. Just do an internet search to see how much pops up on the subject. Some veterinarians turn to relief practice to escape an unhealthy work environment. Providing relief services to different types of clinics can be eye-opening. Picking up on the vibe of a cohesive, cooperative team versus a toxic one doesn’t take long, even for an outsider. A culture one might not thrive in as an associate can work out just fine for a relief veterinarian since the quirks and office politics can be easily ignored. Sometimes, these people find they really enjoy relief practice, so they stick with it. Or sometimes, they stumble upon a practice they fall in love with and decide to stay, which leads us to our next category.
The Secret Shoppers
These folks use relief practice as a “try before you buy” strategy to find a place they’d like to land as an associate. They might not tell the employer about their intentions because observing a practice’s normal day-to-day operations is more effective than being wooed to join a team full time. Practice owners, treat all relief veterinarians with the respect and kindness you’d give an associate candidate. You never know. They might become permanent, valued members of your team.
The Gold Rushers
Depending on the circumstances, relief veterinarians might make more money than associates, even when factoring in fringe benefits. And, of course, some associates are side-hustling relief jobs to pay off student debt faster, fund an international vacation, save for a down payment on a house or meet other financial goals.
You’ve probably heard the line, “Not all who wander are lost.” These veterinarians can be great assets when covering maternity leaves, sabbaticals and vacations. They are licensed in multiple states and often embrace RV life to support their adventures. If your practice is in a beautiful or exciting place with lots of outdoor recreation, cultural events, or a lively food or music scene, be sure to highlight that in your job posts.
The Previous Practice Owners
These veterinarians sold their clinics but want to stay in the game, caring for patients and pet owners. They are often happy not being responsible for running a veterinary practice. They find joy in focusing on the medical and customer service aspects of relief work. Their experience and business-focused perspective make them great relief veterinarians.
They’re as Good as Gold
A healthy veterinary industry requires a robust supply of relief and associate veterinarians. Relief practice is vital to the profession’s well-being and allows those doctors to customize a work schedule that accommodates their family responsibilities, financial goals, personal health, growth and hobbies. It also helps clinics generate revenue, meet the demand for services, and give associate veterinarians and clinic owners their hard-earned time off.
Companies in many sectors are catching onto the fact that more workers desire a job that fits their personal lives rather than the other way around. We’re seeing independent hospitals and corporate groups offer flex work, internal relief teams and sabbaticals. Innovative staffing agencies are coming up with hybrid models that provide the benefits of employment with some of the flexibility and variety of relief.
Many relief veterinarians, carrying on the entrepreneurial roots of our profession, thrive in their careers, enjoying complete autonomy as a business of one. By recognizing that careers are not static and the needs of our current and future workforces are evolving, we can continue to innovate solutions to keep veterinarians engaged and satisfied with clinical practice. Relief practice might be transient for some and a firm career choice for others.
It’s impossible to pin down a single reason that veterinarians gravitate to relief work, but one thing they all have in common is that they are explorers. Having a great one on your team is as good as gold.
CHOOSE YOUR SCHEDULE
Veterinarians switch to relief practice for one or more reasons, and their motivation can change at any point. For some people, a four- or five-day workweek that starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. (or, more likely, 8 p.m.) no longer works for the duration of most people’s careers. Even a three- or four-shift, day-night rotation has limited long-term appeal.
A REEMERGING ELEMENT
Gold, with a long history as a therapeutic agent, was used to treat various diseases. For example, gold preparations were prescribed for human cases of pulmonary tuberculosis in the 1920s and ’30s even though investigations of gold salts showed no convincing effect with experimental tuberculosis in guinea pigs. However, by the late 1930s, the treatment modality fell out of favor due to the high toxicity rate.
Today, gold is making a comeback as a treatment modality in the form of gold nanoparticles. Veterinarians and human physicians are researching the use of gold nanoparticles in combination with targeted laser therapy to treat solid cancer tumors.
First, the colloidal gold is injected into the bloodstream, eventually clearing from the normal vessels but getting stuck in the incomplete and abnormal blood vessels seen in solid tumors. In the second phase, laser therapy is applied. The concentrated gold nanoparticles absorb the laser energy, converting it to heat and damaging the cancer cells.