Pros and cons of being a relief veterinarian

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Relief veterinary medicine offers control and diverse experiences but weighs the stability and benefit trade-offs.

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Fxquadro/stock.adobe.com

I’ve met many who loved relief work and others who hated it. It’s not for everyone but I am going to attempt to shed some light on reasons why someone would want to make the change and become a relief veterinarian.

The goal is not to persuade anyone to become a relief veterinarian, rather, it is just to give some context to what happens when someone does decide to try and figure out a better way to practice veterinary medicine while also being able to tend to the demands of life that come outside the work.

I’ve spoken to people who’ve been completely terrified to step out as a relief veterinarian. If you’re in that same boat this should provide not just a good picture of what you’re getting into, but also some steps that you will want to consider taking if you go out on your own.

The cons

One of the greatest cons is that there is no promised consistency to your schedule or location. There can be inconsistency with the availability of shifts, inconsistency with how each practice operates (policies, procedures, methodologies, etc), and inconsistency in where you’ll be driving every day. For some, this variability is welcomed, as they love change. For others, this constant mode of change causes much anxiety. It doesn’t provide a natural, consistent pattern in their lives and can frustrate them enough to just want to say no to being a relief veterinarian altogether.

Some relief vets have been able to create some rhythm within their calendars and narrow down their schedule to work at only 2 or 3 practices. They schedule 1 practice on Mondays and Tuesdays, 1 on Thursdays, and the other on Fridays and Saturdays. Some veterinarians travel the United States while working at random practices.

The second-largest con is that you’ll need to learn how you should get paid. You’ll need to get with a professional to find out if you should open a limited liability company, a professional limited liability company, an S corporation, etc, to run your income through. Certified public accountants (CPAs) are usually the go-to people for this kind of advice. However, I will warn you that finding a good one can be difficult. Once you have your entity opened for your income to run through, you’ll also need to decide how much you’re going to pay yourself in a W-2 and learn how to pay your taxes on any distributions you will make/take from the business. This kind of advice is all over the map, from what I’ve seen. You can ask 10 different CPAs the same question and get 12 answers.

The pros

The best part of being a relief vet is that there aren’t any benefits paid by your employer since you are the employer. I know what you’re thinking: “That doesn’t sound like a pro; that sounds like a con.” This is where I will say that the best thing you can have is the ability to craft your package. Usually, when your employer is paying for your benefits, you are at the mercy of getting only what they are willing to pay for. Most of the time that I’ve reviewed compensation packages they’ve been decent, but they haven’t been the best for all employees. I believe this is partially because employers often assume that the best group packages for the employees are the most expensive and because the employer has to pay for these packages to be available to everyone, generally speaking, employers provide basic insurance coverage and basic retirement plans. These plans provide some benefits but may not match the level of quality you are wanting.

When you can craft your benefits package, you will find that the less expensive things can sometimes offer more benefits or even that you can craft an amazing 401(k) plan for yourself that provides much better flexibility and benefits to your retirement plan than any other employer could or would provide you.

The second pro I will mention is the obvious one. It’s the opposite side of the same coin that I mentioned earlier in the cons: Inconsistency in your calendar also means that you are in a lot more control of your calendar. You may find that you love this way of planning because you’ll be able to move dates around with a lot more ease. You don’t need anyone’s approval to go on vacation. You don’t need to put energy into wondering if you still have vacation days left with your employer. You are now in complete control of when you work and when you don’t, and that can be a benefit many wouldn’t want to pass up.

DISCLAIMER: Securities products and advisory services offered through Park Avenue Securities LLC (PAS), member FINRA, SIPC. OSJ: 4200 West Cypress Street, Suite 700, Tampa, FL 33607, 813-289-3632. PAS is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. The individuals associated with Florida Veterinary Advisors do not maintain specialized licenses or qualifications for the financial services provided to veterinary professionals. Florida Veterinary Advisors is not registered in any state or with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as a Registered Investment Advisor. Florida Veterinary Advisors is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS or Guardian. 2024-173493 ex 4/2026.

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