We have all heard the adage that the first year out of veterinary school is the most formative year of our career. So, imagine my dismay when my fast-paced internship following graduation fizzled apart six months earlier than originally planned, and the residency opportunities I eagerly anticipated dissolved away. I went from working 15 hour shifts 25 days a month to unemployed overnight. The first half of my first year as a veterinarian felt like a fiasco.
Not knowing any clinics in the greater Houston area, one of my friends recommended trying out Roo. She said it was a great way to make some additional money helping clinics fill empty shifts. Seemed reasonable enough while I figured out my next step. As I eagerly set up my Roo profile, the Roo team reached out to me. They introduced themselves and explained the platform, including that there were no non-competes. I was welcome to seek a permanent position at any clinic I worked at. With Roo’s gentle encouragement and compassion, I started my first year out of veterinary school over. Little did I know that Roo would change how I view the veterinary profession forever.
Unsure about what kind of practice I wanted to work at long-term, I turned the next few months in to a self-directed internship. A few shifts at a shelter to work on my spay and neuter skills. A couple of overnight ER shifts to grow my triage abilities. Even some time at a larger referral hospital where I could pick the brains of the specialists. All of these learning opportunities were interspersed with some steady shifts at a general practice with a well-established veterinarian willing to discuss some of my more perplexing cases with me. Just as I was settling into a new “normal” routine, the entire world was disheveled.
Finding Comfort in Strength
About three months into Roo-ing, everyone’s “normal” was forced to change amidst the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantines, lockdowns, and toilet paper shortages erupted across the nation. Through my Roo shifts, I witnessed how challenging and diverse COVID-19’s impact was on our profession. I experienced at least ten ways to do “curbside” appointments, and clinics were continually asking me what was working for other clinics. There were moments of fear when shifts were canceled due to hospitals having to close for two weeks following multiple team members testing positive.
Anxiety mounted as last minute S.O.S., “save our shift”, requests came streaming in when veterinarians were forced to quarantine, but pets still needed care. Emergency clinics were hit particularly hard. During my relief shifts at general care clinics, the team members were often abuzz about the disappearance of their overnight emergency clinics. Meanwhile, Roo had an influx of emergency shifts posted. Some of the ER clinics I worked for admitted that they were struggling to keep their doors open as their increased case-load amplified the rampant burn-out among their staff and veterinarians.
I found comfort in Roo’s strength. Their commitment to both the health and well-being of their veterinarians, and their larger mission to provide quality veterinarians and veterinary technicians to hospitals in need, never wavered.
A New Normal
While my day-to-day jobs fluctuated to fit my community’s needs, my family’s priorities started to shift as well. I love the greater Houston area, but my home has always been the Texas Hill Country. When the first round of lockdowns came out, my husband and I felt desperately isolated from our family in the Hill Country. We realized it was time for a change.
In the same way that signing up on Roo was serendipitous, Roo’s roll out to the greater Austin and San Antonio area was perfectly timed for me and my family. I started with weekend trips to help my family during the pandemic that I paid for with Roo shifts in the area. As the number of clinics in the two cities expanded, I started stringing multiple shifts together to extend my stays. By the end of July, around the planned end date for my original internship, my husband, fur-babies, and I had moved back home to the Hill Country. Roo relief shifts in San Antonio and Austin made up our primary income.
Change is constant, so luckily Roo is always expanding and adapting. As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to deploy to cities nationwide, our new “normal” is starting to take shape. I am eagerly anticipating the ability to travel again. It is easy to schedule Roo relief shifts to pay for weekend trips to go visit friends in Houston or take a work-and-play vacation up to Dallas Fort Worth.
I tell my family and friends that I am very lucky; not only did my dream job find me when I was hitting rock-bottom professionally, but it found a way to move me home closer to family, all within the first year of my career. I love being a veterinarian, and I love working for Roo. It is immensely satisfying that I get to set my own schedule. I can try new clinics, learn new ways to practice medicine, and make new friends every shift. When I need a predictable work week, there are tons of clinics experiencing unexpected growth that post regular relief shifts on Roo. My favorite shifts are at busy clinics, similar to the hospital I did my original, abbreviated internship at, with veterinarians in desperate need of some well-deserved time off. Serving as the “substitute” veterinarian can still be intimidating, but the gratitude from those clinicians makes it all worth it. I completely understand the sigh of relief they get from one of my relief shifts.
This profession has room for everyone, and you really can make it your dream career. Let your heart, and Roo, lead the way.