Covid may have put a damper on Elisabeth D’Agosto’s involvement in local sports leagues (i.e., beer socials), but her relief work lets her shine. Branching into the relief world has taught her volumes about herself while also providing nifty tips and tricks. With a solid comprehension base of French and Spanish in her toolbelt, please welcome this alternative and rehabilitation therapy centered, poker hosting, dairy cow loving veterinarian to your clinics, Florida! And Georgia and Connecticut – you are in her sights, too.
What inspired you to become a veterinarian?
More like a who – my cousin in Arizona was a zookeeper when I was a child, and I was able to visit with her at her job. I thought it was so cool that she worked with all sorts of exotic animals! Funnily enough, I did not want to become a zoo vet. I thought I was going to do solely equine medicine, as I have ridden horses since I was quite young. However, horse people can be quite particular (I include myself in this). I ended up starting my veterinary career doing mixed animal practice in West Virginia.
Another childhood experience involved one of my favorite school horses. Her name was Millie, and she was undergoing a bout of colic. I didn’t understand what this was at the time, but I spent my lesson time walking her in the indoor arena and held her while my instructor gave her an injection (I suspect it was Banamine) while waiting for the vet to arrive. This memory stands out because it cemented for me that I wanted to be a veterinarian. I ended up shadowing that very same doctor a few years later as part of an eighth-grade project.
What roles have you had within the veterinary profession? How about outside of this industry?
I started as an associate but have been doing relief for the last two years. I am hoping to transition to alternative/rehabilitation medicine predominantly in the next few months. I have been a member of several veterinary associations, and I have served on the admissions committee for the University of Florida. I have an MS in Animal Nutrition from UF. I was quite active in clubs and committees in college and veterinary school, but not much since then. Currently, I donate my time to do acupuncture and laser therapy for equids at a rescue I volunteered for before I became a veterinarian.
What made you switch to relief practice?
There were a few elements that came together at the same time. I think I was getting burned-out, or at least did not want to have to work more than 4 days a week. I had an opportunity to buy into a practice and also considered starting my own. My significant other was considering a move to another part of Florida, so I started off looking for associate jobs, and I found so many positions open. Since I was not feeling pushed in any particular direction, I started relieving!
What is your most memorable relief job?
My first relief gig was at a local ER, recruited by the practice manager who I knew from a previous employer. I was not prepared for the caseload and the severity (or lack-there-of) of some emergency cases, but I learned a lot really fast!
How do you feel that relief practice supports the veterinary profession as a whole?
My experience has changed significantly in the last two years. It started off as filling in for veterinarians on leave (vacation, medical, etc.) but quickly transitioned to filling a gap while practices looked for a new associate. I might be at a different practice every day but the same few clinics on a rotation basis. Whatever the need is, I’m happy to be there.
What are your favorite things about being a relief vet?
First, I am always learning new things, whether that is an anesthetic protocol, a nifty trick like Cerenia nasal drops, or different record-keeping computer programs. Second, I enjoy working with new staff. There’s certainly a period of getting a feel for each other, but everyone has something to gain from one another. Third, I love making my own schedule. I usually only book one month in advance so I can keep my options open.
What are your least favorite things about being a relief vet?
There’s only a couple. I don’t like getting caught up in clinic drama. I also don’t like staff adding appointments or drop-offs without consulting me first. I usually won’t say no, as I want to be accommodating, but still I need to feel like I can work at my best.
What do you look for in a practice when deciding to cover shifts for them?
Staff-to-doctor ratio, efficiency and proficiency, and paperless or paper-light medical records
What supplies or equipment do you bring with you on the job?
I always have an extra set of scrubs, my stethoscope, a copy of my licenses, calculator, pens, and a Sharpie. My VIN membership has been well worth it, as I use this resource at least once a shift. I also maintain a hard-copy planner, and always have a paperback book and at least one water bottle in my bag. I’ve been fortunate to be able to bring my dogs to work with me to most clinics, so I have to pack for them, too.
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 so many! My experiences have certainly showed me what works best for me, what I can tolerate, and what I will never allow myself to go through again. Should I ever decide to own my own practice, I know what I need to succeed. Similarly, I have learned how to be firm and stay consistent in how I practice medicine, while still feeling like I have my finger on the pulse as things change.
What advice would you give new relief vets? (Alternatively, what advice would you give someone who is thinking about being a relief vet?)
You should probably develop a contract, but it might be more beneficial to figure out what your parameters are for an ideal day, whether those be appointment length, breaks, surgical comfort, etc., and put that in a Word document to be a part of your initial discussion with whomever is hiring you. It helps to get an idea of what the going rate is in your area, and do not be afraid increase over time. Take advantage of being able to make your own schedule, and don’t get bullied into taking on more days than you want to work. It is vital to be reliable, so don’t put yourself in a position where you might have to cancel (this is why I don’t book out more than a month in advance in case I need to take some time for myself, family, health appointments, etc.).
How has the global pandemic affected your relief practice?
At the start of it, I had a few cancellations, but I have never had to solicit work, which is awesome! The Relief Rover membership has gotten me several requests (thanks, Cindy!). I am only working for curbside-only clinics. I don’t mind the phone calls at all, but I have to remind myself to complete my medical record before I talk to the owner, as I can get ahead of myself with what I want to do and what I am allowed to do. I have also developed several template “discharge instructions” that I will email to clients to summarize our conversation and plan, as I suspect it’s not all being taken in over the phone.
What states are you licensed in and/or states you are working to obtain licensure within?
I am currently only actively licensed in Florida and have let my West Virginia and Ohio licenses become inactive. I am considering getting a Georgia license, as I live in north Florida, to be able to offer my rehabilitation services, as well as Connecticut since my (older) parents still live there, and I travel home a few times a year.
Aside from English, what language(s) do you speak?
I only speak English, but I can understand basic French and Spanish and can read both fairly well.
What are your hobbies / passions outside of work?
I read…a lot. I also like to do puzzles. I hang out with my dogs and horse. Before the pandemic, I hosted monthly poker nights at my place and was involved in local beer, I mean sports, leagues like kickball and ultimate frisbee.
Anything else you’d like to share?
My favorite color is orange, and I love dairy cows!
For more information or to contact Dr. Elisabeth D’Agosto, click here.