Navigation of the relief world can be daunting – both for the clinic and the relief vet. Strong communication and teamwork, however, can overcome the obstacles and create a beautiful working relationship. With fabulous organizational traits inherent, Dr. Anais Alamo-Abraham’s caring nature both with staff and clients helps her excel in the relief profession. Chicago, give her a call!
What inspired you to become a veterinarian?
Everyone will tell you the obvious – because we love animals. But Veterinary Medicine is much more than just the love for animals. We need to care and love people, too. I am passionate about teaching and educating pet owners. Public Health and the Human Animal Bond are priorities. Since I was a little girl, it was my dream to become a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine even though I grew up surrounded by my parents’ professions of human doctors.
What roles have you had within the veterinary profession? How about outside of this industry?
Within the hospitals, I tend to adopt a leadership role. I love to teach, train, and guide any associate (vet assistant, vet tech, or new grad). It is actually my main focus – to have a teamwork type of mentality and approach to all things.
I am also part of an amazing non-profit organization called ViDAS, which provides free spay and neuter services for dogs and cats in areas of need to address overpopulation in certain communities.
What made you switch to relief practice?
I switched for the convenience and freedom of making my own schedule now that I am a new mom. One of my main worries was not being able to spend quality time with my baby or commit to long hour days underneath a contract. The feeling of being attached to a contract made me so anxious that at that point I said ‘’it is time to explore something different that will give me a better quality of life’’.
What is your most memorable relief job?
It was my second shift at this hospital, and they scheduled me a humane euthanasia. The practice manager consulted the case with me prior to scheduling to make sure I was comfortable with it. I instantly thought that was very considerate of her. I went in, spoke to owners, and then performed the euthanasia. After that, the technician told me she was touched by the way I supported the owners, and she was never going to forget how meaningful I had been.
This meant a lot to me because I hold euthanasia appointments very close to my heart. My objective is that every single one get my full engagement, both for the owners but most importantly for the animal that I’m gifting rest. Sometimes we do great things, and we don’t realize it.
How do you feel that relief practice supports the veterinary profession as a whole?
I believe that relief practice is of great support and help to any clinic simply by being available to cover for them for either short or long-term periods. Doing so brings the opportunity to keep the hospital running and productive with minimal disruption to the flow, even if someone goes on vacation. Should an associate unexpectedly quit, knowing that there are relief veterinarians available to cover and support your hospital can bring a sense of relief, ironically.
What are your favorite things about being a relief vet?
I do very much enjoy exploring different hospitals and learning the various protocols each one has. Networking is great because I get to meet different veterinarians and clients. Plus, every time I cover a shift, the staff is very grateful and appreciative of me being there for the day.
Being my own boss is the biggest perk – having the ability to decide when I want to work and what hours. Along that same line, if I don’t want to work holidays, I don’t need to. I enjoy the sense of freedom and the fact that if I do not like a hospital environment, I do not need to go back.
What are your least favorite things about being a relief vet?
Not being able to follow up with certain cases. I miss creating that long-term bond with clients, but if I know that I will be there in the near future, I try to book their rechecks with me. Sometimes a client asks me if I will be there permanently because they would like to continue to see me, and I dislike telling them that I may or may not be at that certain location since I am relief.
Another thing that I find challenging is the lack of affordable health insurance options. When I started, I did not have the option to get health insurance through my husband. Now, thankfully we do. If it weren’t for his coverage, I would be at a loss in finding a good affordable health insurance option for relief professionals.
I have also struggled with building up savings for paid vacation time or maternity leave – but that will come with time.
What do you look for in a practice when deciding to cover shifts for them?
At this point in time, there are several things I look for. While I don’t mind driving, I do take into account how long the travel time to the clinic is, since long drives will cut down on my personal time spent with my daughter. During winter months in Chicago, I don’t like to travel too far away in case of snow.
Another important thing I look for is how supportive the team is with one another. Before committing to many days in advance, I cover some shifts to make sure the hospital is a good fit for me and vice versa.
What supplies or equipment do you bring with you on the job?
I bring with me my stethoscope, my own office supplies (pen, markers, calculator), record keeping notebook, work calendar, favorite veterinary books, lab coat, name tag, scrubs and surgery cap.
Have you picked up any unique practice tips while being a relief vet? These could be related medicine, workflow, practice organization, or anything really.
I am a visual organizer: I have a separate work planner in order to keep my shifts organized. I also have an overview of the month in a wall calendar at my house. My husband can then see my schedule and where I will be. I have the habit of having 2-3 months confirmed in advance.
What advice would you give new relief vets? (Alternatively, what advice would you give someone who is thinking about being a relief vet?)
Review thoroughly what being a relief veterinarian entails. Relief Rover was and continues to be of huge help to me. When I started thinking of relief work, I was so lost. It was overwhelming to think of all the details. I started asking questions to other relief vets and looking into all the resources Relief Rover offers.
It is very important to be organized. I keep a calendar specifically for only work-related shifts. I keep a list of all the hospitals, their detailed information, practice manager, computer program, and my login information.
I do not have an official contract, but in an email I do let them know my basic policies (charge per hour, special requests, cancellation fees, etc.) so at least it is in writing. My main advice would be to always be on time, responsible, professional, and communicate with the practice manager if there is something you are not comfortable with: communication is always key.
I was lucky to have one of my dearest friends, Dr.Alycia Einstein, help me get started. She has been a relief veterinarian for many years now, and my moving from a completely different state helped me to start in this wonderful new work world. Having a group of relief veterinarians brings the most amazing support and motivation.
How has the global pandemic affected your relief practice?
Overall, I don’t see any negative effect from the pandemic. I feel like hospitals are way busier since the onset of the pandemic. Veterinarians overall are in high demand, so I feel like relief work is needed even more now.
What states are you licensed in and/or states you are working to obtain licensure within?
Florida and Illinois
Aside from English, what language(s) do you speak?
What are your hobbies / passions outside of work?
Right now, my focus and passion are to spend time with my almost 7-month-old daughter and see her grow. Being there for her is my priority, and relief work is giving me that flexibility, which to me is the most important part of it all.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I believe that to be comfortable with relief work, you have to be comfortable with the many challenges. I am completely comfortable meeting new staff and being accommodating to their protocols. I am flexible and communicative. I am very organized, and keeping track of invoices, payments and hospitals is not difficult to me.
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