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Endless Possibility

Aug 1, 2018

The life of a travelling locum

Scuba diving in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Egypt are just a handful of memories Wendy Kane has made over the past few years. But in addition to being a scuba diver, Kane is also a veterinary locum, working six months a year and spending the rest of her time exploring new and diverse countries across the globe.

Passionate about animals and curious about science and biology, Kane contemplated several career choices before applying to veterinary tech school and embarking on her career.

“I thought about going into veterinary medicine or human medicine but I guess I felt a little burnt out education-wise and wasn’t sure about the idea of student loans. I was 8 years into my career when I started to locum.”

One summer, Kane was staying at her mother’s property and helping out in-between jobs. After finding out that a friend’s clinic needed some more staff, Kane took up some locum work.

“Shorty after locuming at my friend’s clinic, I had a travel opportunity arise so I decided not to apply for any full-time jobs. I continued to pick up shifts until I went travelling. After I came back home, it was almost Christmas time and another veterinary clinic needed temporary help so I locumed there for a few months. For there on out, locum work kept on arriving” says Kane.

The thing Kane appreciates most about being a locum is flexibility – and of course, more travel time.

“I travel more than most people, so having a flexible work schedule is crucial. The change of clinics is also something I appreciate. I don’t want to work at one clinic the whole time; I enjoy the challenge of new places, new people, new protocols and new learning curves”.

But flexibility doesn’t always mean less working hours.

“Being self-employed, you have control over your own schedule but at the same time, you end up working way more shifts than if you probably had a stable full-time job. I work well over 60 hours a week, but it’s also by choice. As locums, we sort of parachute in to help out – so you’re appreciated more and generally given more available work” says Kane.

As an established locum, Kane says it is easy to book shifts, often with clinics personally asking her to do so.

“When I started out, I would look up ABVMA classifieds and send my locum resumes out to each and every clinic. It was extremely time consuming. Clinics would also often get back to me offering full-time work, but I was a locum so I had to decline those offers. With a platform like IMLocum, even as an established locum, it takes so much weight off your shoulders; you can just hop online and see what shifts are available. I wish I had that starting out,” says Kane

If there’s one piece of advice Kane would stress to new locums, it is to consider the locum lifestyle and get a good accountant.

“As an independent contactor, you need to know how to manage your tax saving and books; an accountant is crucial. You should also be open to change as a locum. Not every clinic has the same rules and protocols. Oh – and you also need to ask yourself: “do I need a set amount of money every month in order to pay my bills? The pay is often better per day than normal veterinary work, but there will be times when work is plenty and other times when work is slow. So you have to be cognizant of that.”

When there isn’t any locum work available, Kane simply packs up her bags and preps herself for an adventurous road trip. For the foreseeable future, Kane plans on continuing her career as a locum and fitting in as many travel opportunities as possible.

“For anyone just starting out, remember to keep your eyes open for unique possibilities. I go to the Yukon and Alaska every year for three weeks to work in the Yukon Quest Dog Sled Race. That’s not what people associate with a normal vet tech duty, but being a locum allows me to do that; to experience things I wouldn’t otherwise get to experience. With all the fun memories and insights I’ve developed as a travelling locum, to anyone who can swing it, definitely give it a go. You might regret not doing it, but you won’t ever regret doing it.”

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