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Being a Relief Veterinarian

Being a Relief Veterinarian

A relief veterinarian is someone who steps in at a clinic that is understaffed, allowing them to remain open and not need to cancel or cut back on appointments. Whether this is because another vet in the clinic had an emergency or someone is going on vacation, they are there to fill the void. Here are some important things to keep in mind when becoming a relief veterinarian.

It is important to note that a relief vet is an independent contractor, not a temporary or occasional employee. There is a lot that goes into that distinction legally, but the main point is that they are self-employed, and simply working with a clinic through a contract; whereas an occasional employee is an employee, so they will have to be provided with health insurance and other benefits.


Working as a relief vet means you get to work in a lot of different clinics, varying in sizes and specialties. While this can be great for someone who does not enjoy working in the same place every day, being stuck in the same routine with little to break it up, you also need to have more flexibility than most people.

Every clinic is different; they all have their own expectations, procedure, and culture, and you will need to be prepared to adapt accordingly. Flexibility is a key component in your work as a relief vet, so you need to think quickly and be able to adapt yourself to each new job quickly.

Note Keeping

When working as a relief veterinarian, it is important that you maintain perfect records, because without them you could end up leaving some confusion over treatment plans or other important notes once you have left. Everything needs to be fully detailed and explained so that the staff at the hospital are clear on what treatment was provided and the desired results of it when the animal comes back later.

Another important thing to keep in mind with your notes as a relief vet is to practice good handwriting. It is one thing for a full-time doctor at an animal hospital to have poor penmanship; if there is a question, it can be asked and answered right away. This is not the case with relief vets, and often there is not time to wait for a response.

If poor notes are frequently left, the clinic may opt to hire a different relief veterinarian who leaves better notes.


As a relief veterinarian, you must be completely reliable, so running late for your shift or calling in sick are not really an option. Unless you have a truly serious emergency, it is important that you never back out of a job or try to take a day off when you are in the middle of one. Since you are not their employee, you need to make yourself completely reliable to keep working with that hospital. However, because you are a relief vet, you can tailor your schedule to suit you. If you need to take a month off, you can easily do so; if you cannot work on Wednesday nights, you can tell whatever clinic you are working for that you are not available.

You can end up with a much more flexible schedule as a relief vet, but you will often be called in on short notice and potentially asked to work odd hours. Relief vets are often asked to work weekends and evenings, and during holidays.