How to find and then choose a locum relief veterinary professional…
Most veterinary practices are small to medium businesses that don’t run with much spare capacity. This means that things can feel pretty tight when you have a staff member away on annual leave or due to sickness! That’s where locum relief staff comes in. But how do you go about finding the right locum relief veterinary professional – be that vet, nurse, or tech?
Why might you need locum relief?
With the average clinic running at full capacity, you usually can’t afford for staff to be off work. If you have a staff member that is away, it is likely you will need someone to step in to help so that your business doesn’t suffer.
For most clinics, this will be when a staff member is away on holiday or even an extended period like maternity or paternity leave. In most cases these will be pre-planned dates, allowing you some time to find and organise your locum relief. In some cases, a sudden illness or family bereavement can leave you low on staff at short notice.
Whilst it might be tempting to save money and scrape by, there are some very good reasons not to.
- Your business may suffer for being short-staffed, through loss of earning potential and a drop in the standard of service your clients are used to receiving. A reduction in vets will mean a reduction in appointment availability, and a lack of nurses or techs will mean the practice runs less smoothly, with fewer nurse clinics and surgical procedures being able to take place.
- Your staff may struggle, particularly if there is a long period of absence. Whilst some team members might not mind stepping up to provide cover short term, longer term they will suffer from fatigue and could feel resentful for the amount of overtime they keep having to pull.
- Fostering relationships with locum relief providers can make life easier when you get really stuck for cover, as they are more likely to be able to able to help you. Having regular locums that you know you can rely on will be very valuable to your business.
How do you find locum relief team members?
There are a variety of ways you can try and find locum relief for your practice –
Locum agencies are one way of finding cover, particularly if you are new to the business of finding locum relief team members. It’s a good idea to start opening up lines of communication with a few of them to increase your chances of finding the cover you need. You may find after a few interactions with different companies, that one out-performs another and you build up a rapport with them, but it is worth being on the radar of the other agencies too. Going through agencies will usually mean paying an agency fee of 20-40% (yes, you read that right) on top of your locum’s daily rate.
These days it is worth advertising for positions or just keeping an ear to the ground on social media pages. LinkedIn is a good place for building a professional network with people, but Facebook tends to be better for reaching larger numbers of people with job advertisements. Search for locum groups and you will find a whole list including one of the largest groups in the UK – the Veterinary Jobs & Locum Work – UK, which has thousands of members, and this one in the USA and another in Australia and New Zealand. You will also find groups that are specific to different corporate practices as well as pages specific to vet nurses or techs. It’s worth asking to join a few of these groups, again so that you can advertise in more than one location. Advertising is free on these forums.
If you have a longer-term position you wish to cover then advertising your vacancy in a veterinary print publication may be worthwhile, such as your national or state veterinary industry association magazine, but you need to be patient as they are often only published monthly or quarterly.
In addition to social media, the internet is another ideal channel and there are local and national websites, usually connected to agencies that can be a good source of locum relief staff. Plus some of the permanent veterinary employment Job Boards have specialty areas for short term or travelling veterinary professionals.
Word of mouth
Talking to other local practices or friends you have within the profession may help. They might be able to suggest potential locum relief that they know will be reliable and suitable for your business. If your practice has a good reputation, then they will equally recommend you to their locum in turn.
You may need to try more than one of these methods when you start out. Depending on the availability of locum relief veterinary professionals in your area it could take some time to find the right person for your dates. So, don’t leave the process to the last minute, especially when you are trying to cover dates in busy school and summer holidays.
Employing your locum relief
Once you’ve found your locum veterinarian, nurse or veterinary technician, you will want to find out a bit more before employing them. Many locums and agencies will offer a CV and skills matrix for your candidate outlining their competencies. If you are wanting your locum vet to be in sole charge in a branch surgery, for example, you will need to ensure they are comfortable and experienced enough to cope with this before signing them up. Similarly, there’s no point booking a full ops list for your locum vet if it turns out they aren’t confident surgeons.
For short term locum positions, it is probably not necessary to interview them – if they aren’t suitable for your business you won’t hire them again! However, if you are planning on a locum being with you for a longer period, such as maternity cover, you may wish to meet and show them around the practice before they start with you. Don’t forget to choose someone who seems competent but friendly, as to get the best out of your locum they need to be able to work with your team.
Once you’ve decided your locum relief is suitable, then you should book them in! Some agencies will want you to sign a contract of terms and conditions when employing one of their locums. Equally some veterinary practices themselves (especially the corporates) will have their own contract that they want locum relief to sign – to secure the date and outline expectations of their terms of employment – but this is not essential.
Professional indemnity insurance is something that should be considered. Most locum vets and nurses will have their own cover in place already, but it’s worth checking, and also with your practice insurance provider as to whether you will need to name individuals on your policy too (particularly those on long-term cover positions).
Future-proofing your locum relief
Remember that your locum will form an opinion of you and your practice, and this could affect whether they want to come back and work for you again. Always treat your locum relief as a member of the team and make them feel welcome. Friendly, approachable teams will often have the same locums coming back time and time again.
This is beneficial for you both. It will save you having to advertise and will be better for your staff and clients to have some continuity in the form of a semi-regular face in the practice. Your locum will also enjoy knowing they are stepping back into a welcoming team when they are needed.
Finding the right locum relief can take a bit of time and energy when you first start out depending on the availability of the workforce in your local area. It will be best to cast your net wide and try a few different avenues to see what works. Once you’ve found your locum, treat them with respect and look after them, and you may both be able to reap the rewards of a longer-term working relationship.
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