Meet a Relief Vet – Dr. Karen Gant
“Try something new.” How many times do we hear that phrase – or provide it as a sound piece of advice to friends or family?
With an already fulfilling career of 22 years, Dr. Karen Gant was ready to give it up, but not before first trying a few relief gigs. She was hooked.
With an affinity for felines and small animal medicine, she can be found, well, almost anywhere you want her! Mississippi. Tennessee. Colorado. Montana. Wyoming. Alaska. The Caribbean. Maine. Vermont.
This certified Animal Aromatherapist fully understands that appreciation is a two-way street. She recognizes the importance of listening, of respect, and of being flexible. And she most definitely knows that blueberry muffins are the epitome of inspiration.
Name your niche: large animal, small animal, pocket pets, and/or exotics?
Small animals, especially felines
ER, GP, and/or shelter?
GP, occasional ER
Everyone has a story – what’s yours? What inspired you to become a veterinarian?
I got an Australian Shepherd puppy at the age of 9 and named her Blueberry Muffin. We took her to the vet, and I decided that very day that that is what I wanted to do! She died at the age of 17 – 10 months after I graduated from vet school.
Outside of the veterinary realm, what types of positions/professions have you been involved in?
I made buttons one summer in a furniture factory!
What roles have you had within the veterinary profession?
I worked in high school in the kennel and as a receptionist. I also worked as an assistant throughout college.
What made you switch to relief practice?
I had been an associate for years and was tired of feeling underappreciated and underpaid. I had actually been considering switching careers after 22 years, but I did a few relief gigs and was hooked!! I realized I DID still love my profession!
Keeping it PG, what is your most memorable relief job?
I tend to attract crazy cases and clients. But one of my most memorable cases was palpating the abdomen on a dog having a dental because she had been so tense upon arrival. I palpated a round mass in her caudal abdomen, and it ruptured as I was feeling it!! Her very understanding owners allowed me to go into surgery for her…ruptured spleen! A blood transfusion and splenectomy later (it was benign), the dog was doing great, and I received chocolates the next shift from the owners. There are so many stories to tell.
How do you feel that relief practice supports the veterinary profession as a whole?
Right now, in some cases, it is keeping that solo practitioner sane. There is such a huge need for relief vets in many capacities. It’s a win/win for both sides.
Aside from watching 6-week-old kittens ricochet sideways across a room during pouncing lessons, what are your favorite things about being a relief vet?
Meeting new people, seeing amazing cases, and feeling appreciated.
What are your least favorite things about being a relief vet? You can’t say nail trims – those are satisfying.
Not having the follow-up on cases and client bonds that I used to have.
What do you look for in a practice when deciding to cover shifts for them?
Quality medicine, quality support staff, and pay.
Pathologically prepared or minimalist: what supplies or equipment do you bring with you on the job?
I bring my lab coat, stethoscope, and phone. I also travel with my essential oils and diffuser, as I am a certified Animal Aromatherapist as well.
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.
I always finish charting on appointments before moving onto the next one. Let the techs do their job! Paperless practices are SO much more efficient.
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. Keep an open mind on doing things different ways. Be the pet’s advocate, always! Make the clients happy. Take time to make small talk. Listen to them. In doing so, you will have happy clients and practice owners. Treat the staff with respect and let them help you all they can. Don’t be afraid to jump into this!! Relief work is incredible. Just be confident in yourself. Know your worth. And BE FLEXIBLE! 🙂
The world is reopening from the pandemic. How has this shift back towards normality affected your relief practice?
It hasn’t. I practiced 21 years prior to the pandemic, and I’m glad to be getting back to normal.
What states are you licensed in and/or states you are working to obtain licensure within?
I am licensed in Mississippi and Tennessee. I dream of doing short term jobs with temp licenses in: Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Caribbean islands, as well as Maine and Vermont. I want to travel doing this eventually!
Aside from English, what language(s) do you speak?
Pig Latin and sarcasm
What are your hobbies/passions outside of work?
All things nature: hiking, exploring, traveling. Reading and home improvement jobs.
Anything else you’d like to share?
This is the greatest profession on earth (and the oldest! – Garden of Eden was man taking care of animals). I love to mentor younger vets and nurture the passion that got them into this in the first place. It is never boring. You will never stop learning. If you feel stagnant and stuck…do some relief shifts! You will breathe new life into yourself and into the clinics you travel to!
To learn more or to contact Dr. Karen Gant, click here.