Can’t decide if you’d rather be in Florida or California? Neither can Dr. Margaret Little, a.k.a. Maggie. Relief Rover is excited to introduce this cross country flying, GDV fixing, daytime sleeping ER veterinarian in the first of our series “Meet A Relief Vet.” Read on to learn about Maggie’s thoughts about relief practice.

Q: What inspired you to become a veterinarian?

A: My father inspired me to be a veterinarian. He was a family practice physician. I worked in his office growing up and loved doing urinalyses and diagnostics in his lab. I loved visiting with his patients and discussing cases with him.

Q: What made you decide to practice as a relief vet?

A: I worked many years in day practice, owned my own practice, and worked as an associate in practices. I felt as if I wanted more freedom and to manage my own schedule. After I tried a bit of relief, I became aware of the added benefit of learning different ways of handing cases, found that I could meet many different interesting technicians and doctors, and found that clients are different in each hospital.

Q: What are your favorite things about being a relief vet?

A: My favorite thing about being a relief veterinarian is that I think of each new experience as an adventure. I don’t know what I am going to walk into, what kind of equipment or drugs they will have on hand, or the level of experience of the staff. I love that experience of walking in and trying to help patients, work with new staff, and accommodate the hospital in the very best way I can.

Q: What are your least favorite things about being a relief vet?

A: My least favorite things are also what I enjoy. I don’t know which job I will be working in six months from now. That being said, I also have learned to gauge my schedule so that I work very hard when jobs are available and travel and enjoy my time off when things slow down. Sometimes it can be challenging when some of the practices are tense or there seems to be incongruity amongst staff. I have learned to try to go with the flow as best I can. The fortunate thing is I do relief ER at night which tends to be pretty relaxed.

Q: What supplies or equipment do you bring with you on the job?

A: I always bring a stethoscope, calculator, my own indirect lens, and techs tease me about my iPad mini in my scrub pocket. I have the Plumb’s Formulary App, Vet CALC App, and I have all of my current reference texts in my Kindle app. Also, my iPad mini has cellular internet so if I want to look something up, this is very helpful. I always bring water, food, and snacks so I do not have leave for food.

Q: What do you look for in a practice when deciding to cover shifts for them?

A: I am lucky in that I do ER only. The standard of care is pretty similar from one ER to the next. If I were still doing day practice relief, I would recommend doing a couple of shifts before you commit to any extended stints.

Q: Have you picked up any unique practice tips while being a relief vet? These could be related medicine, work flow, practice organization, or anything really.

A: I have learned the best thing to do is be very observant and listen to whatever the tech, manager, or staff member reviews with you when you come in. Ask them how they usually do things. The easiest thing for you and the hospital is to remember that you are there to make things easier for them while their regular doctors are away. The more you stick to their protocols and routines, the less stressful this will be for everyone. I have learned things go much more smoothly if I remember that the hospital is my client, not the pet owner. Unless something is absolutely egregious, I try to do what the hospital usually does.

Q: What is your most memorable relief job?

A: There have been many memorable jobs. Each job is unique and I try to learn something from each place. Some of the more amazing situations are when I see techs and doctors that I feel are just outstanding and go above and beyond.

I currently go to an ER where the techs continue to amaze me. It is very busy emergency hospital and the techs literally have the cases and treatment plans already in the process as I am discussing options with clients. On top of that, they are fun and so loving to the patients. It really touches my heart.

Q: What advice would you give new relief vets?

A: Try relief. It is not for everyone. You need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Not knowing what you are getting into is part of the draw for me. Some people like routine and do not enjoy surprises. I think of relief as making my career in veterinary medicine more adventurous.

I would want to relate that not every hospital you go to is going to be a good fit for you. Do not worry. Do your very best and then find places where you feel it is a good fit. Try a new hospital for a couple of shifts and see how you like it before you commit to any extended periods of time.

Make sure you are charging appropriately and keep track of all your mileage, expenses, CE, and travel. I have my own corporation and utilize a CPA. They have my business account set up so payroll taxes are taken out each month. I really believe my accountant has helped me very much and is worth her weight in gold.

Q: What are your hobbies / passions outside of practice?

A: This is what I love about relief….I can travel! In the last five years, I have been to Peru twice, been on a World Vets Mission to Ecuador, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Mexico, driven across the US, gone skiing, hiking, kayaking, and trekking. I love the oceans and mountains. I love live music and have gone to many concerts and live for comedy. Love to stay at home and garden and work on my house. I love having time to visit and hang out with my kids and friends. I would say this is the best part of relief, the freedom to travel, explore hobbies you have never tried, and enjoy your time off. Meeting new people at different hospitals brings variety and joy to my life.


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