A world away from practice


The first step to getting away for continuing education-or even a vacation-is to find someone to replace you. Take these five steps to find the perfect relief veterinarian.

Many relief veterinarians like the flexible work schedule they enjoy. You can benefit from their flexibility, too. These five steps show you how to find the right locum tenens doctor for your practice.

1. Gather some names.

Ask your area colleagues for recommendations. Local drug representatives also may have leads from their experience visiting other practices. Your state veterinary medical association may offer a listing of locum tenens doctors. Lastly, consider consulting online or toll-free national services for a list of names.

2. Make contact.

You want to make sure this doctor is the right person so you feel comfortable and enjoy a relaxing trip. Ask general questions about his or her experience and fees. And ask specific questions about following your clinic practices. For example, if you've invested a lot of time in educating clients about the need for heartworm testing and preventive, ask the doctor whether he or she will follow your clinic protocol.

3. Contact references.

This step may seem like overkill, but you should conduct this search as if you were hiring an associate. After all, this doctor will care for your clients and patients and work with your staff members. So now is the time to ask questions of previous employers. Find out:

  • how well the doctor fit into the practice
  • whether he or she was flexible and open to different treatment protocols
  • and whether he or she maintained the clinic's standard protocols and recommendations.

4. Schedule an interview.

If all of the information seems positive, meet with the relief doctor at your practice. This gives the doctor a chance to tour your facility, gain general knowledge about your procedures and philosophy, and most important, meet your staff. This meeting also gives you both another chance to ask questions and clarify your expectations. You might even consider making a list of commonly seen cases and reviewing your typical approach to treatment.

5. Set up a trial.

Take off an extended weekend and ask the locum tenens doctor to cover for you. Besides getting a break, you can see whether the doctor is a good fit.

Just because someone doesn't fit your practice style doesn't mean he or she is a bad doctor; it just means he or she isn't a good match for your practice. And hiring the wrong match can cause big problems later.

Once you find a locum tenens doctor that fits your practice, consider using his or her services more often. After all, it's unheard of for doctors to say that they wish they spent more time at the office.

Ray Ramirez, DVM

Dr. Ray Ramirez owns R. J. Ramirez & Associates in Maroa, Ill. He's been a relief veterinarian for 17 years.

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