What do you get when you combine an absence of artistic talent with a vertically challenged individual?

A veterinarian.

An acupuncturist. A pocket pet enthusiast. A GP practitioner.

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, welcome Dr. Colleen O’Brien.

Go ahead, challenge her to a soccer game.


Name your niche: large animal, small animal, pocket pets, and/or exotics? ER, GP, and/or shelter?

GP – small animal. I am learning about pocket pets and exotics but not birds.

Everyone has a story – what’s yours? What inspired you to become a veterinarian?

I’m a terrible artist it turns out. And apparently you can’t be a goalie for a national soccer team when you’re only 5’2″. Vet seemed like a good back up.

You’ve made the switch to relief practice. Why?

I moved across the country and wasn’t sure if I was going to stay where I moved. I wanted the freedom to leave easily without leaving a practice high and dry.

How do you feel that relief practice supports the veterinary profession as a whole? 

It’s great for giving people a break. It shouldn’t be relied on regularly though because that disrupts continuity of care.

Outside of the veterinary realm, what types of positions/professions have you been involved in?

Referee and field marshal for soccer

What roles have you had within the veterinary profession? 

Assistant, associate, relief vet, in-home acupuncturist

What are your favorite things about being a relief vet? 

Being able to work as little or as much as I want. There is no limit on taking time off.

Have you picked up any unique practice tips while being a relief vet? These could be related to medicine, workflow, practice organization, or anything really. 

The importance of leveraging the staff: your relief vet is not going to know how you do billing or where things are located.

How about your least favorite things about being a relief vet? 

Not knowing if my treatments made a pet better. Follow up reports are often absent.

What advice would you give new relief vets or those who are thinking of becoming one? 

Be flexible. You are going into someone else’s practice. Maintain your standards, but just because somebody does things differently, does not mean it is wrong.

What do you look for in a practice when deciding to cover shifts for them? 

Distance, lodging, if I can bring my dog with me.

Pathologically prepared or minimalist: what supplies or equipment do you bring with you on the job? 

Stethoscope. If they don’t have other basic tools, I probably will not return.

What states are you licensed in and/or states you are working to obtain licensure within? 

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado

What are your hobbies/passions outside of work? 

Soccer and hiking


To learn more about or to contact Dr. Colleen O’Brien, click here.