The Business of Practice: Relief Veterinarians  

In this episode, Drs. Cara Wright and Tom Pryor discuss their experiences working as relief veterinarians.
A relief equine veterinarian
Relief veterinarians provide a valuable service to the industry, helping equine vets prevent burnout by allowing them to take time away from work. | Getty Images

In this episode of The Business of Practice podcast, we talked to Cara Wright, DVM, MS, IVCA, and Tom Pryor, DVM, about their experiences working as relief veterinarians. They offered recommendations for equine veterinarians considering this career path.  

Wright and Pryor became interested in relief work to have more control over their schedules. They both enjoyed experiencing new things and traveling to new places. Wright first worked as a relief veterinarian for a friend on maternity leave. She then covered for another veterinarian on maternity leave. After those two jobs, she simply created a website and listed her services on the AAEP relief list, and that was all it took to launch her career as a relief veterinarian. Pryor had a similar start to his career. He had been an associate in private practice for seven years and was experiencing burnout. After taking a few months off, he simply “put his hand in the air” and was immediately busy.  

Pryor spoke about his motivation to help the equine practice community. He said it is rewarding to give back to other equine veterinarians through relief work. Wright said doing relief work brought back the joy of practicing, and she realized she had been very burned out. “It is pretty cool to see how practitioners are using relief to prevent burnout,” she said.  

Wright offered words of encouragement for equine vets considering relief work as a career path: “No matter what is thrown at you for that period you are doing relief, you can do it!” Pryor echoed her sentiment: “We can push our heads through any wall, as long as there is a finish line,” he said. “When I get home, my responsibilities are completely with my family, and it’s such a nice departure.” 

Adaptability is key in starting a relief practice. Pryor explained veterinarians must always be thinking about how they can make the best of the situation. He said figuring things out on the fly is empowering, and he reminded aspiring relief vets to seek feedback and apply it to the next job. Wright said the technical staff members in every practice she worked at were helpful and enthusiastic.   

Wright and Pryor then spoke about the challenges of adapting to different software at different practices. Wright said the practices she works for sometimes ask her to simply record her notes in a Word document rather than use the practice management software. Both vets explained that staff is usually happy to help them figure out the software when needed, but things can be trickier in practices with no support staff. Wright described a software mistake that made it appear she had not charged for any services, when she had in fact charged clients correctly. This created a stressful miscommunication with the practice owner. “Our job is not to make the owner’s life more stressful,” she said. 

Both Wright and Pryor have six state veterinary licenses. Licensing cost and difficulty varies greatly among states, which traveling relief vets must consider. “Relief practice is fun and rewarding, and you can set it up any way you want,” said Pryor. “The demand is there.” He added that he is booked out through the end of 2024.  

If you have questions about relief practice, you can contact Pryor at tom@equinevetrelief.com and Wright at carawrightdvm@gmail.com.  

About Dr. Cara Wright  

Cara Wright, DVM, MS, IVCA, is a senior equine professional services veterinarian for Merck Animal Health. Prior to veterinary school, she earned a master’s degree in animal science focusing on equine reproduction. She graduated from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 2009 and then completed an internship in Florida, after which she was in equine private practice until joining Merck in 2022. Wright started working as a relief veterinarian in 2015 and continued this work throughout her career in private practice.  

About Dr. Tom Pryor  

Tom Pryor, DVM, was born and raised in rural west-central Wyoming, at the foot of the Wind River Mountains, where his family operated a small cattle ranch. He attended St. Michael’s College in Vermont, earning a degree in history. Later, he earned a master’s degree in agriculture before attending veterinary school at the University of Colorado. Following graduation in 2016, he joined an equine-exclusive ambulatory practice in Boulder, Colorado. More recently, Pryor began an equine veterinary relief practice based in Colorado. His philosophy toward equine veterinary relief is simple: Provide excellent service to both the veterinary practice and the client so colleagues can have absolute peace of mind while they are away. 

Disclaimer from sponsor: This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit (collectively, “Synchrony”), make no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in this article are the sole opinions of the author and roundtable participants. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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