Locum Vets – 8 Essential Relief Veterinarian Tips
So, you want a life in which you can pick and choose when and where you work – you want to be a Locum Vet. You want to spend three weeks employed by a clinic in Queensland, two weeks exploring your favourite vacation spots in WA, and a month working part-time in Canada. Or perhaps you just want more control over your schedule so you can spend more time with your kids, conducting research or being entrepreneurial. Or you might just thrive on variety, enjoy meeting fellow industry professionals or want to broaden your experience and expertise.
Whatever the reason, all that is possible if you’re a Locum Veterinary professional.
Most Locums have a general idea of where they want to go, what types of practices they want to experience, and how long they want to enjoy the locum lifestyle. What’s motivating you from leaving the security of a full-time position?
- Do you want to augment your income with part-time work in your current city?
- Are you hoping for long-term locum work to be closer to a relative in need?
- Are you feeling burned out, and looking to shake things up a bit with lower-stress responsibilities?
- Do you want to learn more about working in a mixed-practice environment?
- Is there a particular expert in a specialisation you’d like to “shadow”?
When you have a good idea of your goals and timeline, you’ll be able to take the necessary steps to set yourself up for the best outcomes. Write your motivations down somewhere safe, and then revisit them every few months – it’s easy to get sidetracked.
Check Your Certifications
Don’t even begin to pursue a Locum Vet career until you’ve verified your eligibility in the state or country in which you intend to work. While may be free to work in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland if you’re certified in another Australian state, you’ll need to meet specific requirements in other jurisdictions. Plus each country also has the same local rules and regulations that you have experienced in your home environment that you will need to qualify for, and prove that you have qualified.
Get Insurance Cover
You’ll want to be responsible for your own Professional Indemnity Cover to ensure that you’re consistently insured. Firstly because, one clinic’s coverage likely won’t protect you against a claim filed against you six months before you arrived. Second, if you’re working consecutive short-term locum jobs, adding and removing you from each clinic’s cover is a hassle and bound to cause gaps due to paperwork processing and administrative errors.
Get An Accountant
Hiring someone to handle your paychecks, taxes, and superannuation is well worth the money you’ll spend on their services. An accountant can help you decide how to set up your business and spot those deductions you might miss. As a travelling Locum Vet, you’ll be surprised by how many expenses you can claim as tax deductions.
Set Your Rates
A Locum Vet with consistent work can make as much as 20% more per year than if she were to stay in a permanent position – you need to know how much to charge as a Locum Vet. Rates may vary between $45 and $60 per hour, plus superannuation (source). In most cases, your specialisation and experience won’t be as important as your willingness to perform some of the more menial tasks and routine duties.
Regional and mixed-practice clinics typically pay more than those in large cities, because they have a more difficult time filling permanent or temporary openings. If you’re being contracted specifically to perform as the Lead Veterinarian or in any management role, you’ll want to request a higher rate again.
Before you set your rates or accept a position with a fixed compensation plan, take a close look at your own expenses and priorities, and chat with your accountant. While you’re likely to make more at a locum job, it might not be enough if you’re paying rent on top of a mortgage, or you’re making payments on a vehicle you purchased specifically to live a more nomadic lifestyle.
You’ll also want to factor in the “downtime” in between positions, as well as contingencies. Gigs fall through at short notice, and you likely won’t have sick pay while temporarily employed.
Develop A Boilerplate Contract
As a freelancer, you’re well within your rights to present a contract that protects your interests, rather than concede to signing your temporary employers’. Either way, you’ll want to make clear—in writing—your fees, the dates of your obligation, the scope of your Locum Vet duties and responsibilities, and how (or if) you’ll be compensated for travel and housing. You’ll also want to specify responsibility for liability, as well as setting the frequency and method of payment.
All contracts are subject to customisation. If your employer insists on using theirs, assert your right to make changes.
One of the benefits of a career as a travelling Locum Vet is learning to live a streamlined, “pick up and go” lifestyle. Whether you’re looking for temporary employment during a sabbatical from your regular position or making a full-time career out of short-term work, organisation is imperative to preserving your sanity and optimising your efficiency.
If you’re supplementing your hours with part-time work at a clinic across town, you’ll still want to have a system to keep everything in order.
Paperwork: Keep ALL your documents and certifications together in a file box as well as scan them to an online storage location such as Dropbox, and remain disciplined in putting things where they need to be. If you’re on the road, it never hurts to keep scanned copies on a secure cloud server, and in a portable hard drive. If important documents are lost or stolen, it’s more of a hassle to get official copies when you’re moving from place to place.
Build your vet kit: Keep your exam gloves, stethoscope, apparel, and other personal work items separate from the rest of your luggage. If you’re working locally, consider keeping a duplicate kit specifically for your relief work, especially if the clinic has its own dress code.
Minimise your belongings: You might not have as much room to store your stuff as you’d like, and if you’re travelling with the purpose of taking advantage of recreational opportunities, it’s a good idea to take what you need and rent the rest. You never know when a favoured Locum Vet position will pop up across the continent, so you’ll want to be ready to go without calling a moving service or resurrecting Hannibal’s army to carry your kit to your destination.
Put Yourself On The Market
How are you going to find the ideal locum positions? How will clinics find you? If you want to target specific practices, locations, or specialities, you’ll need to be proactive.
- Build a resume specific to locum work
- Draft cover letters tailored to individual clinics in your target area
- Register with a recruiting firm catering to veterinary professionals
- Create an account with an Australian veterinary job search website
- Join some Social Media groups that network and chat about Locum work
- Ask colleagues to spread the word when you (or they) are at conferences or workshops
- Consider collaborating with another locum vet professional as a “package deal”; some clinics are run by couples, or may want to send multiple staff to conferences or training programs.
Put down those irons. We’re not talking about that kind of branding (unless you are Locumming on a cattle ranch). If you’re going to make a go of relief work as a career, you might want to invest in a marketing campaign that sets you up as an ideal candidate prompts potential employers to reach out to you. Here are some ideas:
Build a website: An online site allows you to link to your information when you e-mail inquiries to prospective clinics. You might have a calendar page that keeps track of your availability, a biography page to help employers better identify with you, and an outline of your experience. Use discretion on the amount of personal information you post online, and consider using a contact form to avoid your e-mail account being clogged with spam. Try Wix or Squarespace.
Write about your experiences: Keep a blog or submit essays to vet magazines and websites. You’ll make a name for yourself and upgrade your reputation (in marketing terms, this is called brand authority or industry thought leadership). You’ll obviously want to avoid negative comments about past employers, but when you use creative marketing through editorial channels, you can enhance your resume and your exposure.
Create a contact list: Personal phone calls or letters are always best, but one way or another, you’ll want to keep your name present in the minds of your target clinics. Send personalised e-mails with attachments, such as your resume in PDF form, and links to your website. Don’t be generic; address your correspondence to the clinic’s decision-makers, and do your homework in advance.
Clinics want to make sure they’re hiring someone who will step in and seamlessly perform their duties. Be professional, concise, and responsive in your communication. Be neat and tidy in your appearance. Prepare to be flexible, and to challenge your skills…and your ego. Be willing to take on tasks you’d otherwise relegate to underlings, and promote yourself as an easy-going but diligent and organised temporary employee.
Who knows? With the right approach, you might convince the vets at your preferred clinics to pack up and go on a world tour, because clearly, you’re the solution to their Locum Vet needs, and you’ve got them covered.
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