Veterinary Relief: More Than Just Vacation Coverage

By Dr. Melissa King

Every hospital manager has been there at some point: it’s early spring and your doctors have started submitting time-off requests for summer vacation. Inevitably, some (most? all?!) of the requests have overlapping dates. You cringe at the thought of having to decide who gets priority. The doctor who has been there the longest? The doctor who submitted the request first? The doctor who has covered for everyone else on their sick days with never a complaint?

What if you could grant all of these requests and each of your doctors could feel valued and satisfied instead of slighted?

This is just one scenario of how Independent Vets can help to solve your staffing problems and ease some of the tensions around time-off scheduling. When your doctors need or want to be off, we allow you the opportunity to always be able to say “yes,” because you know you can get reliable steady coverage for your hospital while they are away.

But it’s not just vacation coverage. What about maternity leaves? Or staffing gaps between one doctor leaving and another coming on?

Independent Vets can help with all of those challenges and more:.

1) An Extra Helping Hand

Consider that even if all of your doctors are present, they are often booked solid and have stacks of callbacks to make as well. As they run in and out of appointments, a receptionist is often trailing them asking about Mrs. Smith whose dog is vomiting but there are no more appointment slots and what should she do? Mr. Campbell (one of your best clients) has called three times to get a refill of his dog’s meds, and when will the doctor review the request so he can pick them up?  The radiologist is also on the phone and needs to speak with a doctor about Buttercup’s ultrasound results. Additionally, all three exam rooms are full and waiting to be seen.

Consider what this scenario would look like, especially after a holiday weekend, a big snowstorm or just a “regular” crazy Monday, if you had a relief vet who could review all of the med refill requests, pop on the phone with the radiologist and speak with Mrs. Smith about what’s going on and if she needs to come in today (in which case he could be the one to see her) or if some supportive home care and time sounds appropriate. If the phones take a break from ringing, the callback pile has been triaged (yes, we do this too) and the med refill bin is empty, you have an extra set of hands to jump into appointments if things get backed up.

2) “Associate for a Day”

Perhaps the following scenario rings more true for you: you are a single-doctor practitioner interested in trying a new surgery or surgical technique, but you haven’t quite had the time (or confidence) to give it a try on your own yet. You’ve thought about going to a surgery CE lab, but that requires time away from you hospital and you’d prefer to learn in your own place. What if all that you need is an “associate for a day?” This would be one of our vets coming to your hospital to scrub in and help teach you the new technique or first-time surgery that she is experienced doing. In practices with more than one doctor, this type of learning happens all of the time, where one associate helps teach another something new and guides her through that first time. We believe that all practices, regardless of the number of doctors, should have this type of learning available to them and we can provide it!

3) Outsourced Newbie Training

You’ve recently hired a new graduate who will be starting next month. She is green with almost no surgical experience. Your other doctors and staff are already overwhelmed, so the idea of helping to train and mentor a new graduate is not being well-received. Not a problem – we are happy to come in on a regular and formal basis (we offer a full eight-week mentorship program) or on an informal basis as needed to help your new graduate learn and thrive. We can come specifically on her surgery day to help her become proficient and confident in her procedures. We can come on her appointment days to help provide feedback and assistance in those early weeks. We can also just come to review cases with her on a regular basis and offer insight, guidance and support. If you haven’t considered hiring a new graduate because you know you don’t have the time or staff to provide this type of structure, perhaps widen your search to include new grads, knowing they will be in good hands with us!

4) Test Drive an Expansion

Perhaps your office has considered the possibility that it is time to add another doctor to your growing practice, but you are a bit unsure as to whether you have the demand and revenue stream to support this expansion. You are hesitant to pull the trigger and hire for fear you may regret it and end up losing money. This is the perfect situation to “try on for size” an extra vet. With no long-term commitment to us and no hurt feelings (or signed contracts!) to contend with if you decide it’s not time for permanent expansion, you can test out what it’s like to have another doctor on staff. Perhaps you do this for a month or three or more. Perhaps you do this for a full-time position or maybe just a part-time position. How does your hospital flow with an extra body? Is the waiting room too packed? Do you need to hire two extra techs and not just the one you thought you’d need? Is the extra doctor sitting around most of the time or is she steady with appointments filling in her books? All of these things can help give you a real-time feel of what it will be like if you were to add another vet, which will hopefully help you feel more confident in whatever decision you make!

At the end of the day, we know that vets are often tired and struggling. Hours can be long and emotionally draining. Debt is high and relative income low. Give them the time off when they ask. We have your coverage. Give them the support they need when they are starting out. We have your training support. Allow yourself the chance to step out of your comfort zone and learn something new. We are your associates.