A successful career in business research and import/export. An undergrad degree in social work. An MBA. With veterinary medicine persistently crossing her path, Christine Longo finally became the veterinarian the universe knew her to be at the young age of 40! A technologically savvy person who sees stars when clinics are fully computerized, this horseback riding, feline friendly Mississippi local also holds licensure in Alabama and Texas. Hello, Dr. Longo!
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot.
What inspired you to become a veterinarian?
I always wanted to be a veterinarian, but never believed enough in myself. Our family veterinarian offered me a job one summer when I was in high school but said that he wanted someone who was interested in going to vet school, so I turned him DOWN!!! I attended Auburn for undergrad and had a friend who was on the pre-vet track. We never saw him after first semester. I graduated in a completely different field and honestly moved on. Veterinary medicine never left my mind though. When my horse had a near crippling injury, and I worked closely with my veterinarian, farrier, and my horse, I realized I wanted to do that kind of work. My veterinarian encouraged me, and at 38, I quit my job, took the pre-requisites I needed, went to veterinary school, and started a new career as a veterinarian at 40 years old!!
What states are you licensed in and/or states you are working to obtain licensure within?
I am licensed in Texas, Mississippi and Alabama and am considering becoming licensed in Virginia. Maybe Maryland and Tennessee?
What roles have you had within the veterinary profession? How about outside of this industry?
Prior to moving to veterinary medicine, I worked for Dow Chemical in Business Research, Safety Operations, and then at the end of my career, Import/Export Services for Dow International. I began my move to veterinary medicine as a volunteer for the two doctors who encouraged me, then worked as a student animal caretaker for the DeBakey Institute, and then as a technician in the Equine ICU at Texas A&M Large Animal Hospital. Between semesters and during the summers of veterinary school, I worked at a small animal clinic as a veterinary assistant. My undergrad degree is in social work, and I have an MBA. The former has surprisingly come in handy in veterinary medicine.
What made you switch to relief practice?
Honestly, I got tired of the bickering at the veterinary hospital(s) that I had worked at, the constant struggle of “front vs back”, lack of leadership, management siding with clients, and general bad behavior when I just wanted to do a good job. It was exhausting, and I was missing life and family events. I wanted to take control of my life and my resources.
What are your favorite things about being a relief vet?
I like being able to set my own schedule, knowing that if I do not like something about a practice that I visit, that I do not have to go back. Relief work also brings a flexibility that allows me the opportunity to meet new people.
What are your least favorite things about being a relief vet?
Relief work is not perfect, nothing is. Having to find and pay for my own health insurance, not being able to form relationships with clients, arranging contracts and negotiating payment from clinics, and seeing wildlife like I did as a full-time veterinarian is challenging. I have also never truly received “performance feedback” from the practices that I visit, and it is important to me to know if I am doing a good job.
How do you feel that relief practice supports the veterinary profession as a whole?
It allows veterinarians to have a much needed and deserved break. We are also able to come in and offer a fresh perspective on a practice.
What supplies or equipment do you bring with you on the job?
Stethoscope, hemostats, bandage scissors, name tag, pens, surgery cap, and now, a multitude of masks!
What do you look for in a practice when deciding to cover shifts for them?
Adequate staff with a “can do” attitude! Sometimes location is a factor, but not often. My favorite practices are those with a well-trained staff that just needs me to be the doctor.
Have you picked up any unique practice tips while being a relief vet? These could be related medicine, work flow, practice organization, or anything really.
I have learned more about using computerized record-keeping! I also find it very interesting to see how practices are set up and managed and to experience the various workflows of the practices that I work at.
What is your most memorable relief job?
There are 2 most memorable moments, almost opposite representations of a clinic working cohesively. One was where the assistants did nearly everything, so I basically hung out in the treatment area unless a client wanted an exam. That was weird to me. Another job was not as encouraging – the owner texted the staff so much while I was there that it was difficult to get the work done, and the staff argued frequently.
What advice would you give new relief vets? (Alternatively, what advice would you give someone who is thinking about being a relief vet?)
Don’t be embarrassed about charging what you think you are worth. Figure out what you need to make relief work for your situation, do your homework about fees in your area, and go for it!
How has the global pandemic affected your relief practice?
I updated my contract to state that all members of the practices that I go to wear a mask. Masks were mandated by the governor, so I didn’t think it was out of order for me to ask for that protective measure. I have remained as busy as I would like to be.
What are your hobbies / passions outside of work?
Travel, horseback riding, reading
Anything else you’d like to share?
The practices that are fully computerized are so easy to work for, especially if they have me set up in the system with my name and a password before I show up. Being fully automated means I don’t have to try to decipher other doctor’s notes, and prior history is right there at my fingertips. It’s awesome! Also, having payment available to pick up, a contact person at the practice, and little “nice to knows” that the owner can share before the shift are very helpful!
To learn more or contact Dr. Christine Longo click here.