What's it like to be a small animal locum?

Vet in practice
3 years ago I qualified as a vet. On that day I couldn't ever imagine ever being confident enough to be a small animal locum. But here I am with my funky scrub top and pink stethoscope working across the North of England.

My decision to move to locuming was down to job satisfaction, flexibility and money. Having worked in private and corporate practices for the last 3 years I ended up in jobs which didn't fulfil my career goals, with limited rota flexibility due to understaffing and below average pay. Having gone into veterinary medicine as a second degree my level of debt is much higher than a usual recent graduate. No one wants to be living hand to mouth every month but this was the situation I found myself in. My last permanent position was mainly sole charge, which made me realise I was more than capable of running a practice alone. So I took the leap, in the hope of finding a better quality of life.

I think I've found it. I can't see myself going back to permanent employment anytime soon.

The downsides?

Yes, it's always nerve wracking walking into a brand new practice on the Monday morning. Knowing no one, with no idea where things are kept and struggling with the computer system! It takes a certain type of personality to pick yourself up every week, move to a new location and start again, but I pride myself on fitting in with a team. By the end of the week we're laughing and joking like we've worked together for years.

People do worry about career progression as a locum. I certainly wouldn't advise it to a more recent graduate than me. You need the consistency of a permanent job to develop in your first couple of years and practices do expect a certain level of experience and competence as a locum vet. I've already had some of the most exciting cases of my career in the last two months - which I've tackled with support from more senior staff members. Support they're willing to give, but don't expect them to be holding your hand through a bitch spay.

What do I miss?

Case continuity and relationships with clients, but really not much else.

You do occasionally get the negative view that as a locum you're just out for money, or you can't stick a permanent job. Every locum has their own reasons. It's certainly not for everyone, but for me it's allowed me to enjoy my job once again. In an industry with a high level of dissatisfaction, it's important to remember there's so many different options out there than your typical permanent vet job.

More on this topic

Back to Categories