5 Key Points to Keep in Mind When Hiring a Relief Vet
Hiring a relief veterinarian can be like going on a blind date. You’re not quite sure what to expect, but sharing your thoughts with your date can smooth the path to a successful relationship. When you are looking for the ideal relief veterinarian for your team, smooth the search by following these tips.
#1: Outline a clear contract
No matter what, never rely on a verbal agreement with a relief veterinarian concerning pay rate, scheduling, or insurance coverage. Always have handy a clearly outlined contract written by an attorney well-versed in veterinary medical practices. Contracts with a relief veterinarian should cover various scenarios with each detail of the arrangement. Consider how you will handle extra hours worked because of emergencies, shifts that are canceled, or limitations on services performed. During your initial discussion with a potential candidate, cover every contract line to avoid confusion and ensure your expectations are clear.
#2: Verify insurance coverage
Do not skip the step of verifying that a potential relief veterinarian has the proper insurance coverage, because without this, your practice could be on the hook for malpractice and worker compensation claims, and medical bills.
Before entering into an agreement with a relief veterinarian, ensure they have their own:
- Worker compensation coverage — Typically, a relief veterinarian is not considered your employee, but an independent contractor working as a sole proprietor, LLC, or agency worker. Therefore, you must ensure they have worker compensation coverage should they have an accident or be injured in your hospital. If you plan on hiring a relief veterinarian long-term, you may opt to include them in your worker compensation insurance policy. However, before you hire, ensure the veterinarian is covered by your policy or their own, to prevent double premium payment or a complete lack of coverage that can result in lawsuits and uncovered medical bills.
- Professional liability insurance — As an employer, you have professional liability insurance for your practice, but that does not extend to independent contractors. Relief veterinarians must be fully covered by their own personal professional liability insurance against malpractice claims. Ensure any relief veterinarian you hire is covered in the event of malpractice, such as a pet’s potential injury or death. Professional liability insurance is essential for protection against potential legal claims arising from allegations of negligence, errors, or omissions while treating pets. This insurance safeguards the financial well-being and professional reputation of veterinary practitioners by covering defense costs, settlements, and judgments associated with claims. Also, your relief veterinarian must hold their insurance policy before the incident occurs, so verify they have coverage before their first shift.
- Health insurance — Since relief veterinarians are typically independent contractors, they are in charge of their own benefits, including health insurance. They cannot rely on you for health insurance coverage.
#3: Discuss tax withholdings
As an independent contractor, a relief veterinarian will likely request their gross pay with no tax withholdings. However, you must have a signed document stating they are liable for their quarterly estimated taxes, so you are not liable if they fail to make their payments. The IRS will come looking for missing tax payments, and may turn to you as the employer should the relief veterinarian not pay their appropriate FICA, Medicare, and estimated taxes.
Before setting up your relief veterinarian in your payroll, ensure both parties are clear on tax withholdings and who is responsible for each payment.
#4: Plan specific scheduling
Determine when you need a relief veterinarian, including the dates and start and end times. A set schedule will help you secure a relief veterinarian who can fill your empty shifts. Discuss with potential candidates their strengths and weaknesses, and any tasks they will not perform—for example, many relief veterinarians do not perform surgery, including elective procedures or emergency laceration repairs. Understanding specifically what your relief veterinarian will or will not do will guide their scheduling, and avoid overbooking or underbooking your appointment calendar and team.
Ideally, you should put a relief veterinarian on your payroll as an associate if you will be regularly scheduling them at your practice. This eliminates potential problems if you are audited by your state’s employment department, because multiple independent contractors can throw red flags that trigger an audit.
#5: Assess potential candidates in person
When possible, consider a trial run to assess a potential candidate. Schedule a day for a relief veterinarian to work alongside your team, and see how they fit with your practice’s culture, personality, work ethic, and client base. Evaluate their professional skills, in addition to their interpersonal skills, to ensure they will treat pets properly and your clients will leave happy. Also, consider how a relief veterinarian meshes with your team. If no one likes working with a particular relief veterinarian, patient and client care will likely suffer.
Finding a relief veterinarian who is a perfect match can be challenging, but our Veterinary System Services team can help vet your vets. Contact us for assistance in finding the ideal relief veterinarian to fill your empty shifts.