How to Make Locum Veterinary Placements Work for All
When deciding to be a locum or when hiring a locum vet or vet nurse, there are some criteria to have in place to ensure that carrying out the role is achievable, enjoyable for all, efficient, and not forgetting profitable for both practice and locum.
Tips for Locum Vets & Veterinary Nurses:
- As a locum, Vet or Nurse, you are selling your skills as a freelance consultant, possibly even as a self-employed entity. It is important to cover the basics to ensure a good service to your client (the practice). Be punctual and professional, maintain an acceptable dress code, and always be courteous, friendly and professional with all staff, clients and patients. Your future work is reliant on the reputation you build.
- If at all possible, aim to visit the practice prior to the day you are due to commence work. This is in order to orientate yourself with the layout, equipment locations, staff and daily routines.
- Always promote the practice and colleagues you are standing in for in the best light. We all know there are twenty ways to skin a cat (excuse the pun). It is also easy to make a new diagnosis of a chronic case with fresh eyes. A professional locum will work within the treatment protocols available and already established. You can imagine how awkward it can be to return from holiday to find out your case management have all been changed or ridiculed. That said, we are all open to new ideas, and helpful suggestions are the best way forward.
- Ensure you obtain the appropriate tax advice to make your situation as tax efficient as possible and that you are IR35 compliant. As a locum vet, you will also need to maintain your own professional indemnity insurance.
- Prior to confirming a locum placement, ask the practice to complete a written questionnaire covering areas of work expectation. This will help to ensure all parties are working to the same agenda. Areas to address: work roster and weekly hours, on-call roster and remuneration, overtime remuneration, lunch break duration, transport and accommodation (is appropriate).
- If you are self-employed; ensure you have a “Contract of Services” signed by the practice agreeing to your “terms of business” so that you don’t fall foul of IR35 regulations. Don’t feel shy about having a clearly written contract regarding work rosters, on-call rosters, accommodation and payment of expenses. This will avoid confusion later and show your professionalism.
Tips for Veterinary Practices:
- Where possible, try to roster on experienced or senior staff to work alongside the locum. This is a matter of efficiency; especially finding equipment and drugs in a new practice in a potentially stressful situation. Experienced staff can also help the locum with advice on the practice’s operating protocols and standards of care.
- Label cupboards and shelves with their contents prior to the locum starting. This will save a lot of door opening and closing to find the stomach tube!
- Keep your locum vets busy. Reception staff should refrain from mentioning that appointments will be with the “locum”, otherwise Mrs Brown may wait two weeks for Fifi’s anal glands to be expressed.
- Where appropriate, make the head nurse responsible for reviewing the billing to client records. Locum vets are unlikely to be aware of unique billing criteria and some fees can be innocently left off. For example, is “express anal gland” included in “consult fee” or not?
- Consider an incentive package for locum vets to encourage correct billing. Look to a percentage of professional fees for “Out of Hours” cases to incentivise seeing every out of hours enquiry.