I love to be helpful.

One of the dictionary definitions of relief is “a means or thing that relieves pain, distress, anxiety, etc.” As we’re all aware, the unique stresses of this career can take a toll on our psyches and bodies. Regular breaks allow rest, renewal, and rejuvenation leading to increased job satisfaction and career longevity. My compassion isn’t reserved just for my patients and clients but for my colleagues as well. Sharing the load of caring for the growing pet population will help us stay energized about our career choice and life outside the clinic.

Practice owners, managers, and associate veterinarians place great trust in relief vets when leaving their patients and clients in our care. It’s a privilege to offer a means for my fellow vets to take that vacation, continuing education event, maternity / paternity leave, fake sick day, or any other reason one may need to take a break from the clinic.

I thrive on change and variety.

Another dictionary definition of relief is “something affording a pleasing change, as from monotony”. Everyday veterinary medicine offers something different whether you’re an associate, an owner, or a relief vet. This fact is one of the main reasons our profession is so dynamic and fulfilling. Layering on the diversity of navigating new clinics, meeting different staff members, and adapting to unique office cultures adds even more interest and challenge. I’m always learning new tricks, treatment options, sedation protocols, and communication techniques. There are treasure troves of wisdom to be mined and shared in our community.

This comfort in being uncomfortable and love of change are likely the character traits that set apart those who flourish as relief vets from those that have no interest in such unpredictability. I enjoy working in other states and getting a feel for how our practices are alike yet also different. I hope to one day work internationally as well. Yet such extreme variability is not necessary as some relief vets find it more enjoyable working at just a handful of clinics consistently.

I enjoy a flexible schedule.

As a general practice and emergency relief vet, the opportunity exists to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Of course, that is not compatible with life. It’s nice to control the amount of work I take in and do it in a manner that suits my lifestyle. I loathe routine so don’t work a lot of “regular” relief but will binge on work then binge on other pursuits for a bit. This style may not work for everyone but that’s the nice thing about relief work – you decide. Never want to work weekends again? Then don’t. Need every Tuesday off for a painting class, or your child’s soccer practice? Arrange your schedule to accommodate this. Are you a night owl? There are plenty of overnight emergency shifts waiting to be filled. Mold your schedule to fit your lifestyle and work at a level that makes sense for your bank account and your sanity.

It’s nice to feel appreciated.

Every time – literally every single time – I work relief, I am thanked. Being available to provide solid medical expertise to start new cases or provide seamless care in ongoing cases is highly valued. The benefit of having a relief vet with sound interpersonal skills to interact with staff effectively and support the pet owner’s bond to the clinic doesn’t go unnoticed. Depending on the longevity of your relationship with the clinic, you will be treated like one of the family, receiving staff discounts, invitations to clinic parties and continuing education events.


Relief work is a viable and exciting career option for veterinarians. It’s customizable to your unique lifestyle needs whether that involves child care, travel, debt repayment, variety, or hobbies. It’s a cooperative service that supports health and wellness among our veterinary colleagues. If you find you’re restless and looking for a change, you may want to consider relief work.