Meet a Relief Tech – Robyn Timmons

When you’re met by a round of applause, you know you’re in the right place.

And for relief technician Robyn Timmons, her place is one of turtles.

Marine ecosystems. Urgent care. ER. Disaster relief.

She encourages all technicians to remember their worth. To find their niche.

To become essential.

So, sip on a glass of wine and read on. You won’t regret it.

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Everyone has a story – what’s yours? What inspired you to become a technician/nurse?

Being of service to animals has always been a passion of mine. I knew that going to school to become a certified veterinary technician would allow me the versatility to help them on a larger scale. Veterinary medicine has a variety of areas that allows you to focus your expertise, so I knew I would never be bored.

What roles have you had within the veterinary profession? How about outside of this industry?

When I was fresh out of school, I got my start at a wonderful general practice in Arvada, Colorado. After a move to Florida, I pursued the passion I had for emergency and critical care medicine and haven’t looked back.

I’ve spent the majority of my 17 years rotating through various positions that have involved work in intensive care or emergency. This experience has allowed me to utilize my skills to aid in disaster relief with the Florida State Animal Response Coalition, the ASPCA, and the Humane Society of the United States. I have also teamed up with amazing first responders of Manatee County Search and Rescue to ensure their search and rescue dogs were well supported working in the Florida heat during missing person cases. I have assisted in raids pulling farm animals out of horrific conditions. In Toronto, I volunteered for a non-profit that provided care to pets belonging to animal guardians who did not have a place to call home.

While on sabbatical after the birth of our son, I started my own business providing integrative and holistic education to pet owners and veterinary clinics. I also have a passion for wildlife and have worked with them in a variety of settings. My favorite is patrolling the beaches of Broward County during sea turtle nesting season and rescuing disoriented hatchlings.

What made you switch to relief practice?

I needed the flexibility of choosing when I wanted to work and control over my income. My availability to work isn’t consistent every week, so providing relief makes it easy to pick and choose what shifts I can fulfill.

Keeping it PG, what is your favorite relief job story?

Veterinary staff clapping with excitement when I walk in the door has always confirmed I was exactly where I was supposed to be! It’s extremely gratifying to be the person that can walk in and take over for a fellow technician that needs a break, an extra hand, or fill in for someone who is unable to be there for the day. I always feel like a superhero!

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

Relief work helps fill in those gaps in care that may otherwise leave a clinic or team struggling to provide the gold standard of medicine for patients. From a personal perspective, choosing to become a relief provider is an excellent option for those struggling with burnout or feel as though they are stagnant in their career.

What are your favorite things about being a relief tech/nurse?

I enjoy observing how various clinics operate and forming new connections. I am an individual that is continuously assessing my own efficiency. Working alongside other technicians and learning their methods has been an excellent personal educational tool. I enjoy seeing fresh perspectives from every veterinarian I work with and how they approach their cases. I learn something new every time.

Techs/nurses are known for their “Mary Poppins pockets” that seem to contain the world. What supplies or equipment do you bring with you on the job?

I am pretty minimal with my pens, markers and instruments. I do make sure that I have electrolyte powder on hand at all times, and snacks to grab small bites frequently throughout the day.

What are your least favorite things about being a relief tech/nurse?

At times it can be hard not being able to follow up with a patient you’ve invested a lot of time with. Learning to operate as an independent contractor to track taxes and insurance was a challenge at first.

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

I like to hear reviews from other professionals that have worked in the practice. Competitive pay and added incentives are a bonus, but I do choose practices that are most aligned with my values and ethics.

Follow-up to the above: do word-of-mouth observations and/or online reviews factor into your decision to cover shifts?

Absolutely! 100%

What advice would you give new relief techs/nurses? (Alternatively, what advice would you give someone who is thinking about being a relief tech/nurse?)

Decide if you want to align with an agency or become an independent contractor. Both have positive and negative aspects. If you do not want to manage the clerical work and extensive communication and networking involved working for yourself, then teaming up with an agency is the most fluid and stress-free way to provide relief. Always show up ready to jump in and constantly ask what you can do. This is especially important if you are starting a shift at a new clinic and unsure of the clinic’s workflow or procedures. Consistently ask – and do – whatever is needed to get the job done. Always ask if the ways you have learned to do things are acceptable in the practice, or if another method is preferred. This can be anything from taping an IV catheter in, to how a veterinarian wants you to monitor a critical case.

How has the global pandemic affected your relief work?

I started relief work in the summer of 2020. The demand for skilled technicians is at an all-time high in part because pet ownership has increased exponentially, and there are not enough veterinary professionals to fulfill this demand of care. This has allowed opportunity for me to pick and choose which positions and settings I want to fill.

What states do you currently work within? Any other states in your sights?

We recently called Florida home, but most of my relief work started in Houston, Texas. I look forward to opportunities in the future to provide travel relief and wouldn’t mind exploring my roots in the great northeast of New England.

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

I am fluent in feline.

What are your hobbies/passions outside of work?

During our quarantine in 2020, I obtained my certification as a health and wellness coach. I enjoy bringing what I’ve learned to support fellow colleagues in taking care of themselves. I also have a special interest in marine conservation and protecting out oceans. Traveling, good wine, swimming, and spending the day beachside fill my cup. I enjoy supporting and being involved in local communities. I love seeing others thrive.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I get contacted several times a week with opportunities. Technicians are in high demand. I encourage all technicians to remember their worth. If you feel you are in a space where you are no longer being celebrated, consider relief work to feel out other practices, you just may find your new home!

In addition, I offer peeks into my work on:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/theEssentialVetTech and Instagram: @theEssentialVetTech

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To learn more or contact Robyn Timmons, click here.

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