Relief Vets and COVID-19 Part III: A Letter to Our Practice Clients

Dear Practice Owner,

We are both small business owners, colleagues, community members, and as veterinarians, stewards of public health. We have a wonderful symbiotic relationship and I rely on you for my livelihood. You keep me in business by trusting me to care for your practice as needed, and I help you take breaks or keep up with extra workloads.

We share even more now as global citizens living through a pandemic. Like you, I have family members and friends whom I love and want to keep safe and healthy. I want the same thing for myself.

Understand that as a relief vet I travel to numerous practices and come into contact with many team members and sometimes clients. Although I’m taking all possible precautions, this increases my risk of exposure to COVID-19 and the possibility that I’m exposing others if I’m an asymptomatic carrier.

Like veterinary practice owners, relief vets are a diverse group of people with varied circumstances and may be facing challenges like carrying a large debt load, having children at home due to school closures, caring for elderly family members, or dealing with underlying health conditions. So we will weigh our risks and benefits of continuing to provide relief services differently.

We may:

  • Choose to increase our number of relief shifts as the need arises. We may feel compelled to provide our essential services to help animals, people, and your business in spite of the risk to ourselves. We may feel anxious about how this national crisis is going to affect our financial stability so we may try to pad our bank accounts while we can.

 

  • Choose to keep all of our scheduled relief shifts and follow whatever current COVID-19 protocols your practice has in place. Don’t be surprised if we share safety protocols that we’ve seen at other practices. This is done in the spirit of sharing and not judgment. There are many recommendations
    including Clinician’s Brief , AVMA , and AAHA.

 

  • Choose to cancel some of our scheduled relief shifts depending on then COVID-19 protocols that hospitals have in place. We have to decide for ourselves if we are comfortable working with the current protocols, or lack thereof. Our intent is not to make your life more difficult but to protect your clients, our families, ourselves, and our collective community.

 

  • Choose to cancel all of our upcoming relief shifts for the next few months. We understand this may be a hardship for you and we don’t make this decision lightly. After all, we appreciate that you have entrusted us with your clients and welcomed us into your practice. However, like everyone, we are having to make hard choices in this new, but temporary reality.

You have a business to run, employees you are responsible for, and patients that need care. You may find even more need for relief services in the weeks and months to come if you or your associates are forced to self-quarantine. However, we know that this pandemic is taking its toll on some of your practices financially and that you also may have to make some difficult choices. We understand that you may need to decrease or cancel our scheduled shifts with your practice.

If this happens we may:

  • Accept the situation gracefully and understand that this is a risk of being self-employed. We understand that there may be mutual hardship and hope that in the future we’ll have the opportunity to work together again.

 

  • Waive our cancellation fee for you. Not all of us have formal contracts with you and even if we do, not all of them have a cancellation policy. But if we do, we may determine that these are extreme circumstances and as a courtesy to you, we may waive our cancellation fees. Some of us may be able to fill these shifts elsewhere and maintain our income, but some of us may not.

 

  • Enforce our cancellation fee. These fees are in place to help us preserve our income. As self-employed independent contractors, if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. Period. Some of us may not be able to weather the financial hit of too many lost shifts. Don’t forget that when we book shifts with you, those dates are no longer available for other job offers and we may or may not be able to fill them if you cancel on us with short notice. However, we realize in some circumstances it may not be possible for you to pay the cancellation fee.

I love my job as a relief vet and I’m honored that you trust me to take care of your practice while you’re away. We all bear a public responsibility to do what we can to decrease the spread of the virus. And I understand that we are each working our way through these unprecedented challenges to the best of our ability. So if we have to temporarily suspend our business relationship, let’s keep the lines of professional, honest, and sincere communication open. Because even when this is all over, we’re still going to need each other.

With deep respect and thoughtful consideration,

Relief Vet

Relief Veterinarian General

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