Relief Work for Veterinary Professionals: A Rewarding Career Choice

Background: We had Dr. Cindy Trice of Relief Rover join us on Instagram + TikTok Live for February’s Wellness Workshop (learn more about our monthly wellness workshops for veterinary professionals here) to discuss relief work for veterinary professionals and how Relief Rover can help relief professionals find jobs and other helpful resources.

Check out the replay from our interview with Dr. Cindy Trice from Relief Rover on Instagram: click here.

Relief Work for Veterinary Professionals

What is Relief Work?

Relief work, also known as locum tenens work, has been an option in the veterinary field for as long as the profession has existed but has recently gained more popularity, especially among younger generations seeking greater work-life balance and career flexibility. Relief work involves veterinary professionals filling in at veterinary clinics on a temporary basis.

Relief veterinarians and technicians typically work at a clinic for a set period of time, often a few weeks to a few months at a time, to cover for the permanent staff during vacations, illnesses, maternity leaves, staffing shortages, or other needs. Relief professionals work on a flexible, part-time basis and get to experience a variety of clinics and work environments. Although they are temporary employees they are responsible for providing the same high-quality care to patients and support to the clinic staff as permanent employees.

Relief professionals operate as independent contractors, meaning they are responsible for their own taxes, licensing, insurance, and business needs. However, relief work also provides a level of flexibility and work-life balance not found in most permanent positions. 

Relief vets and techs can choose when and where they want to work, allowing them to take time off whenever needed and avoid burnout. They also have the opportunity to gain experience in diverse clinical settings, from general practice to emergency to shelter medicine, which is valuable both for career development and finding the right permanent position.

Veterinary Professional with Dog

Why Relief Work?

Veterinary professionals may choose relief work over a traditional associate position for a variety of reasons including:

  • Wanting a flexible schedule for work-life balance, childcare, or eldercare
  • Feeling burnt out in a full-time position and needing a break
  • Wanting to gain experience in different work environments and roles before committing to a permanent position
  • Enjoying the variety and challenge of different cases and clients at different clinics
  • Valuing the autonomy and independence of running your own relief business

The Many Benefits of Relief Work

There are numerous benefits to working as a relief vet or tech. In addition to flexibility and work-life balance, relief work offers:

  • The opportunity to gain experience in a variety of clinical settings
    Working at multiple clinics allows relief professionals to strengthen their skills, discover new interests, and become highly adaptable. They gain knowledge that is useful across settings and exposes them to diverse cases that permanent staff at a single clinic may rarely see. The experience relief work provides can accelerate career development and open up more career opportunities.

  • A way to avoid burnout by mixing up routines
    Rotating between clinics and schedules helps relieve the monotony that can lead to burnout in permanent positions. Relief professionals get to experience new environments and work with different staff, avoiding the repetition that often causes stress and reduces job satisfaction over time.

  • Exposure to different practice styles and client bases
    Relief work exposes professionals to new techniques, technologies, and approaches to patient care. They get to see how different clinics operate and interact with diverse clients. This exposure helps relief vets and techs stay up to date with advances in the field and gain a deeper understanding of what clinic and client population is the best fit for their needs and skills.
  • The potential for higher pay rates
    As independent contractors, relief vets and techs can set their own rates. With the demand for relief professionals, many are able to negotiate higher pay than in a permanent role. They can also avoid costs like health insurance by only working part-time. The flexibility to take time off as needed and potentially earn a higher hourly rate allows many relief professionals to achieve a better work-life balance and financial freedom.

  • Independence and control over your career
    Relief professionals get to choose where and when they want to work. They can accept or turn down any job opportunity and take time off as needed to suit their lifestyle. This level of control and flexibility over your career can be highly rewarding, especially for those seeking greater work-life balance. Relief vets and techs can craft a career that suits their individual needs rather than having to fit into the schedule and workflow of a single clinic.
Veterinary with Cat
  • Avoiding the commitment of a permanent position
    For those not yet ready to settle into a permanent role or single clinic, relief work provides experience and career development without requiring a long-term commitment. Relief positions allow professionals to explore different options before deciding on a specialty or committing to a clinic long-term. They can gain the experience needed to make an informed choice about the next step in their career.

Getting Started as a Relief Professional

For those interested in relief work, the key steps to getting started include:

  • Gaining adequate education + experience Having 2-3 years of experience in general practice or your desired specialty is typically required to work as a relief vet or tech. This experience is essential for providing quality care and gaining the skills to adapt to different work environments. New grads can also consider relief work to gain initial experience, but should be upfront about their experience level and willing to accept lower pay rates and less complex assignments.

  • Contacting local clinics to express interest Reach out to clinics in your area to let them know you are available for relief work. Provide details about your experience, qualifications, availability, and rates. Build relationships with clinic staff and managers to get repeat job opportunities. Follow up with clinics regularly to stay on their radar, even if they do not currently have a need for relief staff. Their needs may change, and an existing relationship will make them more likely to contact you first when an opportunity arises.
  • Setting rates and negotiating pay 
    Determining a fair pay rate based on your experience level and location is important for getting good job offers. Research typical rates for relief vets and techs in your area. Factor in costs like liability insurance, licensing fees, and taxes. Be willing to negotiate rates to get the best pay possible while still being affordable for clinics. Consider offering lower rates to new clients at first to make it easy for them to bring you on, then raising your rates once you have proven your value.

  • Obtaining liability insurance (for veterinarians) 
    As a veterinarian independent contractor, liability insurance is essential to protect yourself in case of malpractice claims or other issues. Make sure any insurance you obtain covers relief and locum tenens work.
Veterinary Professional with Dog
  • Marketing your services Promoting your relief services will help you find more job opportunities. Share your services on websites like Relief Rover, reach out to local veterinary associations and shelters, network at conferences and events, use social media to spread the word about your relief vet or tech services, or even send a newsletter to area clinics highlighting your experience, qualifications, availability, and rates. The more you market your services, the more job opportunities you will find.

  • Staying organized Keep records of your schedule, pay rates, expenses, and business needs. A calendar, spreadsheet, or project management tool can help you stay on top of bookings, taxes, insurance, and other responsibilities. Track which clinics you have worked with, when, and your rate. Note which clinics have ongoing needs and which you most enjoyed working with. Strong organization is key to running a successful relief business and will make it easier to find new opportunities.

PS: our Vet Med Wellness Journal is an awesome resource for relief veterinary professionals. Use the different sections like "reflect on your day" and "case of the day" to create a record that you can use to easily recall your experience at different clinics. Plus, it's a great way to reflect and unwind after a long shift (great for any veterinary professionals tbh).

How Relief Rover Can Help

Relief Rover is a free online platform that connects veterinary relief professionals, such as veterinarians, veterinary technicians,  etc. with animal clinics and organizations in need of temporary staffing support. Relief Rover differs from a traditional staffing agency by empowering relief professionals to operate as independent businesses. Relief vets and techs can create their own profiles, set their own rates, and choose which clinics to work with, rather than being assigned to jobs by an agency.

So Much More than a Staffing Agency

Plus, Relief Rover provides more than just job listings and staffing services. It also offers resources and community support for relief professionals, networking, tools such as a wage calculator, partnerships with companies that offer member discounts, and more. Relief Rover aims to support relief professionals throughout their careers by helping them advance professionally and find fulfilling work, not just simply helping them land their next temporary job.

Learn more about relief work and join the relief revolution at


In summary, relief work provides veterinary professionals a rewarding and flexible career option with unique benefits and challenges. Relief vets and techs get to help out clinics in need while experiencing a variety of work environments and schedules. They gain valuable experience, achieve a better work-life balance, and have more control over their career. While relief work is not for everyone, for those seeking more flexibility, independence, and career variety, it can be an extremely fulfilling choice. With the proper experience, business skills, and marketing, veterinarians and technicians can launch successful relief careers through services like Relief Rover. Overall, relief work is an excellent option for empowering veterinary professionals to craft a career that suits their individual lifestyle and needs. For those seeking an alternative to the traditional permanent role, relief work is a rewarding path worth exploring.

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