Locum Relief Work – Why, and How to Get Started
With an increasing number of pets and amplified demand for high-quality pet care, veterinary teams are feeling the pressure more than ever before. As a competent locum relief veterinary professional, every day you are more welcome than a bowl of ice cream at a children’s birthday party! Read on to discover the top five benefits of locum relief veterinary work, plus our practical tips for expanding your career into the locum relief space, be it full-time or occasionally…
Why should you consider Locum Relief Veterinary Work?
If you are an experienced veterinarian, nurse, or veterinary technician who is highly competent and personable, you should consider becoming a locum relief as a career option. Not only will you be in high demand, but there are some pretty sweet professional, lifestyle and financial perks in the bargain too. Here are a few reasons why you should jump aboard the locum relief train.
As a locum veterinary professional, you get to decide when and where you will work and when you’ll take days off or go on holiday – without consulting a manager.
The roster flexibility is great for working parents who need to juggle childcare with their partner or childcare provider. It supports the pursuit of other interests outside of work, which allows for a better work-life balance. Want to join a local sports team, but can’t guarantee you’ll get out of work on time for practice? Or perhaps News Raiding is your jam? (No judgement here!) The power is in your hands to schedule an early finish, so you’ll be on time for practice/the Five O’Clock News.
Compared to part-time or full-time employees, you should expect to earn at least 35% more for your work compared to full-time employment, to account for the fact that you won’t be receiving vacation pay, sick leave or other benefits (but you should build these into your business if you end up doing this for the majority of your income).
However, clinics seeking last-minute relief coverage (or those who are just desperate to secure some help) may pay 1.5-2x the regular rate for your work. If you can meet this demand, you can reap the financial benefits.
The opportunity to try before you buy
As a locum relief, you have the opportunity to work within multiple veterinary clinics and get a sample of the atmosphere and working conditions that they offer on a day-to-day basis. In turn, the clinic get to sample you too!
It is reasonably common for a particularly good locum to be offered a permanent position by a veterinary clinic. If you find that you really gel with a particular clinic, you can open a discussion about your availability for a permanent position, should they wish. And if you find that you have, ahem, professional differences with a certain clinic, you can fulfil your commitment to them and then move on. No harm, no foul.
Variety and challenge
If you have been feeling a little stagnant in your current veterinary position, locum work can be a great way to revive your professional joie de vivre.
New working environments and teams will provide fresh interest and challenge. You may even pick up new treatment protocols, surgical techniques, or other gems of veterinary information.
If you’re a people person, you will also love the opportunity to meet lots of other awesome people in the veterinary industry. Locum work can be a great way to build professional connections and form new friendships.
For any veterinary professional, working in private practice can be emotionally draining. If you’re feeling a little tapped out mentally, locum work can be a great way of escaping most of the workplace politics or intense client relationships associated with long-term positions, whilst still performing the clinical work that you enjoy.
As a locum, you can pop in, get the job done, dust your hands off, and head on home, leaving behind any drama in the clinic.
Locum Vet work 101: how to get started
Before starting locum work, you will need to take some time to think about the business logistics of how you’ll operate. Will you work as a casual employee of a practice? Or sign up and work through a locum agency that arranges your shifts and invoices? Or will you work as an independent self-employed contractor?
The best option will depend on how much locum work you are anticipating. If you’re planning to dabble, it may be best to start work as a casual employee or work through an agency. If you are planning to make a full career change, you’ll reap the most financial benefits by establishing yourself as an independent contractor. It’s best to consult an accountant who is knowledgeable about veterinary locum work, who can guide you on correct procedures regarding setting up your business, claiming business expenses and paying taxes.
It is recommended that locum vets take out their own professional indemnity/liability insurance and health/life insurance policies. Even though many practices have insurance that covers all vets working there, it’s safest to ensure that you’ll be protected against any professional mishaps regardless.
Lastly, always ensure that you are registered to work in the relevant state or country before your first day, and are licensed as required (e.g. radiation license, DEA license, microchip implanter accreditation). When you’re starting locum work, it’s often easiest to work within your state of registration, and then register for other regions as required.
Finding locum work
To get started, you will need to hunt down some locum work! Word of mouth can help, but it generally takes at least six months to establish your reputation as a locum. Therefore, it can be helpful to market your availability by:
- Sending an introductory letter and resume to local clinics, and phoning to see if you can book a time to pop in for a casual face-to-face meeting with the clinic manager – this will help ensure that you pop to mind when they’re considering a locum to hire!
- Attending regional Veterinary Association conferences, and introducing yourself to fellow vets as an available locum
- Making connections with clinics and other veterinary professionals on social media, e.g. Facebook groups, Instagram, LinkedIn
- Posting your availability on VETERINARYlocomotion
Starting work for a clinic
Once you have established contact with a clinic, have them confirm the prospective employment details in writing. This should include shift dates and times, the pay rate (including any overtime or out of hours work), and any allowances offered (such as accommodation, meals or transport). It’s also a good idea to check the dress code of the clinic (e.g. scrubs, lab coats, or casual business attire), and if they wish to provide any clinic logoed uniform for you to wear.
You will need to provide the clinic with any relevant personal administrative details required, such as your Tax File Number (TFN)/National Insurance (NI) number/Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), as well as your bank account details, and for casual employees, your Superannuation/Pension/401k account details.
Keep records of the hours you work, as you will need to invoice for your time – using an invoicing app such as Wave can allow you to create professional-looking invoices. You should also keep records of any relevant business expenses, such as license fees, equipment costs, marketing materials, professional fees (e.g. accountants), insurance costs, continuing education costs and travel/accommodation costs, as this will make things a lot easier at tax time.
It’s important to bear in mind that as a locum, your reputation is built not only on your working competency and disposition but also your professional reliability. If you agree to work for a clinic, never back out last-minute unless it’s an actual emergency.
This being said, work-life balance is important for your mental and physical health and your professional longevity. Good planning is key – try to calculate your professional and personal expenses on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis, to get an idea of how much work you need to take on to keep yourself afloat, without burning yourself out. Self-employed locums are business owners as well as veterinary professionals, and you need to take care of your number one employee – you!
As the “new kid on the block” in every clinic, it’s important to present yourself professionally to help you earn the respect and trust of clients and staff who don’t yet know you. It’s recommended to have a professional name badge or embroidered scrubs or lab coat, labelled with your name and job title.
Given you don’t know what type of equipment each clinic will offer, it’s also best to bring your own stethoscope and pens, and potentially other hand-held instruments that you may require, such as ophthalmologic or dental equipment.
Lastly, it’s strongly recommended that you bring a few trusted information resources along with you. This may be a favoured surgical or consultation guide textbook, Plumbs Veterinary Drugs online, or your membership to online journals or platforms such as VIN. Some clinicians also prefer to bring their laptop, utilising either the clinic Wi-Fi or their phone hotspot for internet access.
Veterinary locum work can provide a means of working flexibly, keeping your career feeling fresh, and reaping the above-average financial rewards, provided that you set yourself up properly, market yourself adequately, and work sensibly. Now go forth and board that locum train!
- Relief vet 101 – undated – https://reliefrover.com/relief-veterinarians/relief-vet-101/ – Viewed 10 February 2022
- Pros and Cons of Veterinary Locuming – 6 October 2019 – https://www.kickassvets.com/blogs/blogProsCons.php – Viewed 3 February 2022
- Tips for Veterinary Relief Locums – 23 September 2019 – https://www.kickassvets.com/blogs/blogTipsForLocums.php – Viewed 3 February 2022
- Essential Items for Locum Vets in the UK – 1 July 2019 – https://therunawayvet.com/essential-items-vet-locum-uk/ – Viewed 3 February 2022
- Finding Permanent and Locum Vet Work in the UK – 26 March 2019 – https://therunawayvet.com/vets-guide-moving-to-the-uk-finding-vet-work/ – Viewed 3 February 2022
- Umbrella vs Limited Company – How to choose as a Veterinary Locum – 2 April 2019 – https://therunawayvet.com/umbrella-vs-limited-company-vet-locum-uk/ – Viewed 3 February 2022
- Guidance and advice on working as a locum – 30 April 2011 – https://www.vetrecordjobs.com/myvetfuture/article/working-as-a-locum/ – Viewed 3 February 2022
- Working as a Locum: Part 2 – 29 November 2021 – http://www.vetsuppliersdirectory.com.au/working-as-a-locum-part-2/ – Viewed 3 February 2022
- Locum Vets: A Guide for the Novice Locum (Australia) – 20 January 2014 – www.vetlink.com.au/blog/locum-vets-a-guide-for-the-novice-locum-australia/ – Viewed 3 February 2022
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