What It’s Like Being a Relief Veterinarian with Benefits

Lindsay Wolcott, BVMS, Associate IndeVet

ArticleMarch 20238 min readSponsored
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At the time of writing this, I’ve been an associate relief veterinarian with IndeVets for just over 6 months. Many of you are probably sitting there—like I was at the beginning of last year—looking for a new start, wondering if relief work is right for you. Like many veterinarians, I was struggling with burnout, high stress levels, and an overwhelming workload. I ignored my health for the sake of my patients and my clients, and after facing a health scare of my own, I knew something had to change.

I had to take a leap of faith to determine whether it was the right move for me, but I hope hearing about my experience can help you decide if being an associate relief veterinarian is right for you too.

Here are some of the ways becoming an IndeVet changed my life and helped me love my job again.

1. More Me Time

With IndeVets, I build my schedule around my life and not the other way around. I get to choose when, where, and how much I work. Personally, I develop my schedule by starting with picking the days that I don’t want to work and I backfill shifts around that. However, if you want to build week by week, do it! I love having the option to go to different clinics every day or build a more consistent schedule at the same practice, like a mini homebase, allowing me to keep up with puppy appointments and follow-up care. I’ve also found that, with relief work, I get out on time way more consistently than I used to. About 90% of the time, I finish my shift on time, whereas I stayed late a lot in my old associate job.

With control over my schedule and the fact that I am no longer involved in office drama, I am so much more relaxed these days. I work weekends and holidays when I want to—not because I have to—and my days off are 100% off. I easily make it to my ninja classes (I’m training to compete in World Ninja League), get to the gym, and hang out with my dog and friends on a regular basis now. I even had the time and energy to start riding my horse again this summer.

At IndeVets, we get an annual “Choose Your Own Adventure” stipend, which you can use for anything to support your physical or mental health. I’ve used mine on my ninja gym membership, travel, and pet bills. These are just a few of the things IndeVets offers that allow me to improve my quality of life in whatever way I choose.

2. More Learning & Access to More Tools

As an IndeVet, I have more resources than ever before. I have daily access to the other 200+ IndeVets online with whom I can chat about cases instantly. It’s like having an ongoing chat with your smartest pals from veterinary school!

“With control over my schedule and the fact that I am no longer involved in office drama, I am so much more relaxed these days.”

Depending on the needs of the clinic, sometimes I am the only veterinarian at the clinic at that time, or I might be the second or even third to help cover appointments for the day. When I am working with other veterinarians, I am constantly learning new skills and ways to treat diseases. Being able to discuss cases in real time is invaluable. I love it when other veterinarians ask for my advice, and I am not shy about asking for another opinion on a case. Since starting relief work, I have confirmed a dog’s pregnancy, gotten a urine sample from a cat whose bladder was too small to palpate, and found gall bladder debris via ultrasonography with the help of our partner clinic’s veterinarians. I didn’t have an ultrasound machine at my old clinic, but many of the veterinarians I’m working with now have taken the time to help me refresh these skills I haven’t used since veterinary school.

If I’m the only veterinarian in the clinic that day, I don’t have to worry about getting stumped on a case because I can run it by hundreds of IndeVet doctors in just a few minutes on our private clinical chat. I usually get several responses in less than 5 minutes. On my days off, I often keep the IndeVets medical channel open to see what’s going on with my colleagues and offer help when I can.

3. More Interesting Cases

I’ve seen some odd cases walk through the door throughout my career, but since being an IndeVet, I’ve been seeing a lot more of them. I used to see strange cases a few times a year; now it feels like a weekly occurrence. This variety has helped me grow my skills with the challenge of it all.

As a general practitioner, my days usually consist of ear and skin infections, puppy vaccine appointments, UTIs, pancreatitis cases, and coughing dogs, etc, but in the past 6 months, I have had a patient with a dislocated shoulder and hip, megacolon in a dog, an incidental BB pellet in a dog’s abdomen found on radiographs, a dog that ate a duck, a cat that ate a squirrel, and (probably craziest case yet) a cat that had come in for cat bite wounds only to discover it had actually been shot with a shot gun (don’t worry—he survived and is doing well). That’s just the short list.

4. More Friends & Colleagues

Although I do miss my old staff, being an IndeVet has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of new people. It’s wonderful knowing how many good people are out there taking care of pets. I thoroughly enjoy learning about the vast scope of people’s interests wherever I go. I’ll go from talking about Broadway shows with a nurse at one clinic to nerdy TV shows with another at the next. Veterinary medicine is full of cool, diverse people, and it’s been fun getting to know so many new people.

5. More Benefits & Control

Most relief companies hire relief veterinarians as independent contractors. That means, even though the hourly pay may start out higher, you’ll be covering all your taxes and paying for all the lost benefits (like health insurance) out of your own pocket—not to mention all the extra work that goes into running your own business. That was the part of relief work I didn’t want to deal with, but with IndeVets, I don’t have to. With IndeVets, I’m a W2 employee and I get all of the benefits you’d expect from an associate job, including health insurance, PTO, licensing, parental leave, and continuing education.

“I truly love what I do again. And I have a life outside of work again.”

I also have more control over my earnings. As an IndeVet, I’m paid hourly, which means I get compensated for every minute I spend working (no more unpaid overtime or long shifts!). Now, I always get paid for any additional work I do and can even get paid for the time it takes to drive to and from a clinic for some shifts. That also means I don’t have to worry about production and numbers anymore. I find I am practicing better medicine now that I don’t worry about how much I’m charging and what my gross billings are at the end of the day.

If I want, I can increase my hourly rate by taking specialty shifts like ER, surgery, dentistry, or urgent care, and many IndeVets’ partner clinics now offer shifts with incentive bonus pay as well. There are endless opportunities to increase my income without taking on more hours—and all of them are my choice.

“I am so much happier as a person.”

Becoming an IndeVet has certainly changed my life for the better, but it’s worth pointing out that you might put more miles on your car if you want to expand your clinic options. For me, I spend more time in the car than I used to, but I was spoiled with a 13-minute commute to my old clinic. My average commute is now about 30 minutes, but that’s partly by choice: 2 of my favorite clinics are almost an hour away and I snag those shifts quickly, but my shortest commute is 10 minutes.

Although I was initially unsure yet cautiously optimistic about relief work, I can now definitively say that becoming a relief veterinarian with IndeVets has been a welcome change for me. Now, 6 months later, I am so much happier as a person. Having a fulfilling veterinary career while living your life and taking care of yourself is, in fact, possible. Yes, there are stressful workdays, but I have so much support from the IndeVets team and our partner clinics and veterinarians. I have a life outside of work again, and I truly love what I do again.