According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the number of auxiliary veterinarians in the workforce increased by 30% in the decade leading up to 2018, with the increase in the number of active veterinarians. Today more than 2,300 auxiliary veterinarians practice in hospitals across the United States
For many veterinarians, auxiliary work offers the potential for better pay, less stress and a better work-life balance. It also allows individuals, at their own discretion, to explore new opportunities and part with a toxic workplace. At today’s Fetch dvm360® virtual conference, Indiana Assistant Veterinarian Tai Ogg, DVM, MPH shared her findings on what to look for before the transition.
Before you commit
Before you take the plunge into unskilled labor, ask yourself the following questions. These serve as a guideline to help you take the next steps in your career shift:
- Would you like to work full-time or part-time?
- What type of practice would you like to work in (general medicine, emergency medicine, accommodation, or a combination)?
- Would you like to have an operation or just see appointments?
- Do you have special skills?
“Do you do ultrasound, endoscopy or acupuncture or are you certified in rehabilitation? These are all marketable skills that you can certainly use in a niche market as an assistant vet, ”said Ogg.
As an independent contractor
Most auxiliary veterinarians are considered independent contractors. For those wary of managing the business aspects of relief labor, there are companies that hire assistant veterinarians, find local jobs for them, and take on the business side of things. But for those who want full control, becoming an independent contractor is the way to go.
“As an independent contractor, you determine the outcome of your work,” said Ogg. “You will be hired as a veterinarian, but you can still choose how you practice medicine.” In other words, practice can tell you what to do but not how to do it.
One thing to note: Independent contractors must file a 1099 instead of a W-2 at tax time. The Form W-2 designates you as a practice worker, Ogg explained, and any required taxes (e.g., social security, income tax) are automatically deducted from your salary, while a 1099 employee has to pay their own taxes. However, 1099 employees can write off various work-related expenses, from miles to meals to business cards.
“Anything you buy specifically for work can be written off,” she said. “This is a nice perk in tax season as these are things that you as a W-2 employee cannot deduct.” Ogg also recommends finding a chartered accountant who specializes in small businesses to provide quarterly tax estimates. They can also help you decide whether to set up as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or an S-Corporation (S-Corp). (Most states allow the self-employed to form an LLC. If your state doesn’t, an S-Corp may be the next best option.)
Setting boundaries is critical for everyone involved and should be set from the start for both associate and auxiliary vets, Ogg said. “This is especially important for assistant veterinarians so they don’t end up in a situation that is either uncomfortable or that is ethically and morally compromised,” she said. Veterinarians should consider the hours they want to work, the procedures they want to perform, when to have lunch, how much time they will spend on appointments, and their protocol if they have to stay later than scheduled.
For people struggling to set boundaries, she recommends getting a contract outlining your relationship with each clinic. Contracts make it easy to enforce your tariff, cancellation policy, overtime policy, and other requirements and ideally should apply to all auxiliary vets.
Choose your tariff
One of the other important considerations is determining your rate based on both geography and personal preference. Your plan should take into account monthly expenses, including health insurance, royalties, liability insurance, disability insurance, business expenses, and desired disposable income. Next, determine whether you want to calculate daily or hourly rates. Ogg advises seeing other local assistant veterinarians to see what they deserve. Most are more than willing to share their experiences. She also recommends charging different rates for weekends, holidays, overnight stays, and shifts in the emergency room.
The final result
The veterinary service can be very rewarding. “Before I took relief, I was ready to leave the job. I felt like I never really fit in with it [I was] A square pin trying to fit into a round hole, ”said Ogg. “As an assistant vet, I no longer have this feeling. It’s nice to be able to help exercises that really need it. “
Ogg’s final piece of advice: “Most veterinary practices just want you to be a match for their staff. If you work to adapt, the rest will follow. You will get repeated bookings, the clients and staff at the practice will be happy, and you will enjoy their work. “
- Burns K. Relief doesn’t just practice a passing appearance. American Veterinary Medical Association. November 14, 2019. Accessed February 25, 2021. https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2019-12-01/relief-practice-not-just-temporary-gig