It’s a new year, and the internet is ablaze with affirmations and resolutions.

Our veterinary world continues to emphatically chase a healthy work-life balance to the ends of the earth – both for ourselves and those whom we meet.

Variety. Appreciation. Travel.

For small animal GP and HQHVSN clinics in Illinois, Idaho, Washington, Georgia, Texas – and basically anywhere with an airport – reach out to Dr. Sheila Newenham.

Some speak whale, she speaks cat…and maybe goat?


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

ER, GP, and/or shelter?

HQHVSN and small animal GP

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

Inspired by a love of animals, I’m one of those who has wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as I can remember.

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

I worked full time and owned a practice for 20 years.  It was like having two full-time jobs.  When I sold the practice, I started working part-time, which did wonders for my mental health.  People started asking if I could cover days here and there.  Over time, I left the part-time job and now do relief exclusively.

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

In such a high-pressure profession, it helps to relieve some stress by giving veterinarians a break, freeing up some of their time for other tasks, or just lightening the load.

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

I am a nature and wildlife photographer and blogger.  I have had roles in writing and editing, and in my younger days, I had jobs in laboratories and retail.

What roles have you had within the veterinary profession?

I have been a kennel attendant, a veterinary assistant, an associate veterinarian, a practice owner, a chief of staff, and a HQHVSN surgeon. I also spent five years as a volunteer vet at a wildlife rehab facility in suburban Chicago.

Keeping it PG, what is your most memorable relief job?

I worked relief at a great place in Anchorage during curbside.  A client sent in her blind, old dachshund with a list of 10 numbered concerns.  “#6: Rammed by goat.” As you can see, there were five more pressing issues, including (of course!), “#3: Nails too long.”  I’d not had experience with a goat attack on a dog before.

What are your favorite things about being a relief vet?

I love the variety, the control of my own schedule, the appreciation of my clients, and the travel opportunities.

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.

There are always little tips and tricks I learn and incorporate into my practice, but none immediately come to mind.

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

Lack of a home base for care of my own pets.

What advice would you give new relief vets?  (Alternatively, what advice would you give someone who is thinking about being a relief vet?)

Be flexible about practice styles but be true to yourself.  There are many different ways to do things that are equally valid.  Recognize when something is a personal preference versus a breach of your standard of care.

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

Location and schedule are first.  Then I look at the practice’s website to get an idea of the practice personality. I ask questions about the support staff and appointment density.  For HQHVSN, it’s about the target number of surgeries/day.

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

For HQHVSN, I bring my surgery cap, stethoscope, and CPR flow sheet.

For GP, I bring my stethoscope, iPad (VIN, calculator, VetPDA app), and a few instruments (sharp bandage scissors, tiny suture scissors, and my favorite cat nail trimmers).

And always coffee, cereal bars/snacks, and lunch.

The world is reopening from the pandemic.  How has this shift back towards normality affected your relief practice?

My work has been steady over the last year or so.  I’m back to flying.  I’m vaccinated and wear a mask.  Spending my time in the surgery room masked and gloved helps minimize risk.

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

I’m licensed in Illinois, Idaho, Washington, and Georgia.  I’m planning a job in Texas, so I’m working on licensure there right now. I am willing to go anywhere that offers temporary licensure or reciprocity.

Aside from English, what language(s) do you speak? 


What are your hobbies/passions outside of work? 

Travel. Photography. Writing. Hiking. Gardening with native plants. Agility with my chunky Labrador. Exploring Nature Photography. 


To learn more about Sheila Newenham, click here.