Vet locum -10 ways to tell if you have what it takes

Maybe you have been working as an employee veterinarian at the same job for years and you are ready for a change.  Or you have been out of the workforce for a while and are ready to go back part time, but can’t find a place to set down roots.   Do you have a bit of the wanderlust and want to work and travel, and be able to set your own schedule?   Maybe (like me) you have a short attention span and simply love new challenges and new experiences. Many people choose to become a veterinary locum for a variety of reasons.  Here are 10 traits that I think might indicate to you that becoming a locum is a good choice:

1.  “Go with the flow”.  You like learning new ways of doing things, although you may have preferred techniques, you can adapt to situations that necessitate doing things differently.  For instance, you are unlikely to completely change a stable diabetic cat’s insulin brand just because you don’t really like the one he is on.

2.  Personable.  You like working with new people and appreciate that everyone on a clinic team has something to contribute.

3.  Confident.  You trust in your abilities and experience to do a good job, including knowing when (if possible) to refer when your abilities are outmatched by the case (or the client!).

4.  Financially stable.  Becoming a locum can be lucrative as a full time endeavour, however there can be slow periods where money won’t be flowing.  If you live paycheck to paycheck then think about how you would handle erratic work.

5.  Unflappable.  Weird things will happen when you are a locum.  If you panic or rage about changes in your routine or unexpected hiccups, becoming a locum will be stressful.

6.  Competent.  You should be confident doing most things a routine practice will see in a day.  If you hate surgery and won’t do it,  you may find it challenging to find regular work.  However, if you do hate surgery, or at least feel incompetent in one area (i.e. large dog spays) you need to be honest and communicate this to the practitioner who may be hiring you.

7.  Organized.  Locums are usually independent contractors, and must keep track of all their expenses, income and submit GST payments and probably quarterly tax installments.  You also will (hopefully) be managing all your written contracts, invoices and payments.  Let’s not mention if you ever make a mistake on your schedule and show up at the wrong practice – in a different town (ouch!  It’s happened, but not to me thank goodness!)  As an aside here I did have a panic attack one day, as I was driving up to the ski hill at Lake Louise (2hrs from where I live).  I thought for some reason I had made a mistake and I was supposed to work that day.  I called the clinic, which was still closed, then to locum colleagues to make a contingency plan – it ended up being a false alarm, I was due to work the following Saturday.  I never forgot that feeling and was careful to put checks in place to prevent it from ever becoming a reality.

8.  Time Manager extraordinaire.  This trait goes along with #7 above, but I wanted to emphasize the importance of good time management. You will manage your time effectively from the way you handle appointments and surgeries at a new clinic, to scheduling your locum time efficiently, making sure you book yourself some time off, and managing your paperwork.

9.  Thick skin.  You don’t mind when people wax on about how great their regular vet is – and how disappointed they are to see you. Most people prefer their regular vet or they wouldn’t keep coming back to their practice.  Your job is to “woo” them and let them feel comfortable with your recommendations.

10.  Leggo my Ego!  You may be the best thing since sliced bread to veterinary medicine, but remember you are trying to get work. If the support staff and clients think you are obnoxious, condescending, or worse yet criticise the regular vet’s approach or clinic management – you won’t get asked back.  Find positive ways to communicate what you need, and why you might need to do things differently than what they are used to. Engage and empower the staff and clients to work together as a team.  After all,  is a locum out of work really a locum?  Or just unemployed?  And word travels fast among the veterinary community – good or bad.

If you think becoming a locum sounds appealing, contact me for more details and exclusive resources to help with the transition.  Fill out my form to get on my mailing list for jobs and locum tips., (403) 467-3767


Hiring a Locum

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