Relief leads to travel. Travel leads to relief.

Initially diving into relief work to get to know a new city, Dr. Jessica Williams loved it so much she stayed!

Her GP dog and cat skills are on point. High volume spay/neuter adventures are in her sights.

Texas knows her. The Pacific Northwest pulls her.

And her continuing education business takes her abroad.

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Name your niche: large animal, small animal, pocket pets, and/or exotics? ER, GP, and/or shelter?

Small animal, dogs/cats GP, although I’d love to start doing some high volume spay/neuter.

Everyone has a story – what’s yours? What inspired you to become a veterinarian?

I have the typical “I knew I wanted to be a vet since I was a kid” answer.
The longer version: When I was 8, I witnessed our family dog, a chihuahua named Paco, get attacked by 2 large stray dogs when I let him out in our backyard one morning. I worried the whole day at school that my mom would have bad news when I got home – but miraculously, our local vets had saved his life. I helped nurse him back to health – cleaning his drains, giving him meds, etc. – and knew I wanted to be able to do that when I grew up!

You’ve made the switch to relief practice. Why? 

My husband got a new job in Austin in April 2020, and we made the move to a new city. I didn’t know Austin very well and originally told myself I’d try relief to get a feel of the city and see which areas/clinics I liked before ‘settling down’. Turns out I loved the freedom and flexibility of relief, and 2 years later I’m still working relief!

How do you feel that relief practice supports the veterinary profession as a whole?

I think relief is vital to the profession. Associates/owners need their time off and shouldn’t feel bad about taking it. I love supporting a practice who would otherwise have to close or more often be overworked/burnt out without some relief.

Outside of the veterinary realm, what types of positions/professions have you been involved in?

In undergrad, I was a live-in nanny for a year. I also helped run an after-school program for kids. I learned that I definitely prefer animals over kids, ha!

What roles have you had within the veterinary profession?

So far, I’ve only worked as an associate vet and relief vet. I shadowed vets in undergrad but never made the jump to tech. I also don’t ever see myself owning a clinic – I love relief too much!

Keeping it PG, what is your most memorable relief job?

I’ve really liked the times I’ve been able to travel outside Austin for jobs. One clinic on the coast let me stay in their beach condo, which was super nice, and another in Dallas was great because I got some free time with my family who lives in the area. I’d love to travel and work further outside Texas in the future.

What are your favorite things about being a relief vet? 

I love helping take some workload off the associate vets. I’ve never felt such appreciation until I became a relief vet, and I really like helping out, working hard to relieve some pressure off of the permanent vets and staff. I also love being in complete control of my schedule and being able to decide which clinics I want to work at. I like that if I want to take a 2-week vacation to Europe – I don’t need to ask anyone’s permission!

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’ve definitely picked up some new tips and tricks after working with so many new vets and staff, which is a great benefit of relief. I’ve also gotten much better/faster at medical records, and I make sure they’re done after each appointment.

How about your least favorite things about being a relief vet? 

I do miss being able to follow up on interesting cases. I usually go back through the records when I return to a clinic to see what happened to some of my cases.

What advice would you give new relief vets? (Alternatively, what advice would you give someone who is thinking about being a relief vet?)

Honestly, just go for it! Don’t get bogged down or too stressed about the business side of things – just get a good accountant and start emailing clinics. My biggest worry starting out was having enough shifts to make ends meet. And the answer is YES – there is so much demand, you’ll be turning down work.

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

Usually the distance from my house – Austin traffic is the worst, ha-ha! I like clinics whose techs and receptionists are efficient and know how to do charges/estimates and know what they have/where things are.

Pathologically prepared or minimalist: what supplies or equipment do you bring with you on the job?

I’m pretty minimalist – I found a kid’s pink pencil box at Staples (lol) that carries my pens, sticky notes, calipers, and calculator that fits nicely on any desk and keeps me organized. That plus my stethoscope is pretty much all I need. I have some books in my car (ER, ophtho, derm) but usually don’t need them.

The world is reopening from the pandemic. Has this shift back towards normality affected your relief practice?

I started relief during COVID and curbside – so switching back to in-room appointments was a bit of a re-adjust. Each clinic runs in-room appointments slightly different.

What states are you licensed in and/or states you are working to obtain licensure within?

Only Texas at the moment. I’d love to work out west in Washington, Oregon, or Alaska during the summer!

Aside from English, what language(s) do you speak?

I’ve been taking weekly French classes for 1 year now. My husband is from France, and his family only speaks French. I’m a good listener and can follow a conversation fairly well, but French pronunciation is hard!

What are your hobbies/passions outside of work?

I love hiking with my dogs, photography, reading novels, and international travel.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’ve recently co-founded Traveling Vet Retreats, a small business providing destination continuing education conferences. I love travelling but am also an introvert and get overwhelmed on my own at big conferences. At TVR, I curate small group CE in fun locations but also focus on wellness and bonding with colleagues via group yoga and sight-seeing. Our first event is in Tulum, Mexico, this December (topics are Emergency Medicine and Anesthesiology) with more destinations planned for 2023! You can check us out at travelingvetretreats.com

To learn more about or to contact Dr. Jessica Williams, click here.

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Do you need more continuing education for this year? Are you unsure?

Because relief veterinarians frequently get licensed in other states, we have compiled a list of the requirements for licensure across all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

Click here to visit our Veterinary State Licensing page.