For our August Edition of “Meet a A Relief Professional” I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Steven Edwards. When he’s not dancing or scuba diving, this guy is serving general practices in Florida and using his behavior medicine expertise to help all those misunderstood pets. To learn more about Dr. Edwards read on and check out his Relief Rover profile here.
What inspired you to become a veterinarian?
I’ve wanted to work with animals since elementary school… so being a vet is how I decided to make that happen!
What states are you licensed in and/or states you are working to obtain licensure within?
FL & NY
What roles have you had within the veterinary profession? How about outside of this industry?
Prior to doing full-time relief, I worked as an associate veterinarian for 5 years. I think having full-time experience is really important for most relief vets. It’s hard to have clients believe you’re filling in for their full-time vet if you don’t have full-time experience yourself first!
I’ve also been seeing veterinary behavior consultations for the past 3 years. Making my own schedule with relief has been critical to allowing me to pursue this opportunity!
What made you switch to relief practice?
I moved out of state and wanted the ability to continue working on veterinary behavior consultations as a referral-based service. Not being tied to any single hospital avoids the perceived conflict of interest for doctors to refer their behavior cases to me.
What are your favorite things about being a relief vet?
The flexibility in my schedule, the ability to decide where I do and where I don’t want to work.
What are your least favorite things about being a relief vet?
Having to fill the schedule myself and the extra time that I therefore spend on scheduling, communications, etc. Also, occasionally finding yourself at that hospital that’s not the right fit for you.
How do you feel that relief practice supports the veterinary profession as a whole?
The three most common critical needs that I fill as a relief vet are:
1) Filling in for vacation time or doctors out due to illness.
2) Filling in at the single doctor practice so that the doctor can have a day off.
3) Filling in at the multi-doctor practice that has more volume than their vets can handle, but not enough to warrant hiring an additional part-time or full-time doctor.
All of the above are crucial to the smooth operation of those practices.
What supplies or equipment do you bring with you on the job?
1) A magnifier that I bought on Amazon that I use for indirect ophthalmoscopy
2) A cobalt blue light for checking fluorescein stains
3) Lidocaine cream for animals who are fearful of needle sticks or prior to administration of microchips
4) Butterfly catheters (I like them, particularly for blood draws in fearful animals, and for euthanasias) since not every practice carries them
5) A fast-reading thermometer (in case I can’t find one in an exam room)
6) Prescription pad
7) My stethoscope
What do you look for in a practice when deciding to cover shifts for them?
Whether they’re GP or ER (since I don’t do ER), and where they’re located. That’s about it. I’ll book one or two shifts to start with. I find that the best way to figure out if a practice is a good fit is to just work there!
Have you picked up any unique practice tips while being a relief vet? These could be related to medicine, workflow, practice organization, or anything really.
I have modified my communication style quite a bit, so that I avoid saying something that could possibly contradict what their regular veterinarian has said. For example, I am much more careful in the way I discuss food recommendations, since I want to avoid accidentally advising against a certain brand, only to have the pet owner say “But Dr. A said that’s what I should feed!”
What is your most memorable relief job?
A feline only hospital. I’ve always like feline medicine, but the reality is that most (if not all) small animal general practices see mostly dogs, with relatively few cats. But that changes if it’s a feline only hospital!
What advice would you give new relief vets? (Alternatively, what advice would you give someone who is thinking about being a relief vet?)
1) Get started with a full time job first. While relief is fantastic at showing you the multitude of ways medicine can be practiced, it is relatively poor at teaching you what happens with the way you handle your own cases, since you won’t be seeing most of them again! So make sure you’re comfortable following up that complex endocrine case yourself over the course of a few months – and that’s something that you can really only get in full time practice. Because you’re going to have to step into the middle of some pretty complex cases, and while you might not handle it exactly the same way that the doctor you’re filling in for would handle it, at least don’t be caught completely unprepared.
2) Realize that you will be a business owner. YOU will be the boss. It’s up to you to decide how many shifts to book (and how many to turn down), what to charge, how to advertise, etc.
3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help from qualified professionals! E.g., get yourself a good CPA who works primarily with veterinarians or other small businesses.
How has the global pandemic affected your relief practice?
I’ve had the privilege of deciding which practices I want to work at…. while also having the burden of deciding which practices I want to work at.
I’ve given up several shifts during this pandemic at hospitals that I felt were not taking adequate precautions to protect their staff, clients, and myself.
I’ve had to risk souring my relationship with some practices, but I had to do what I was comfortable with.
What are your hobbies/passions outside of work?
SCUBA diving, hiking, and dancing.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Being a relief vet is a great career option! It can be overwhelming, but there are resources out there, like ReliefRover, for those who look!