027: An Inside Look At The Life Of A Relief Veterinarian w/ Sara Sheltren


As you probably know, getting into vet school is no easy task. After years of struggling to find a school, Dr. Sara Sheltren made the alternative choice to accept a spot at ROSS Veterinary School on the island of St. Kitts. The next 3 years were filling with the realities of working in clinics that are not guided by American conveniences. This one of a kind experience led to Sara and her classmates gaining resilience, knowledge, and perseverance that would be hard to come by through traditional schooling.

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Show Notes: 

Dr. Sheltren took her expertise and transitioned into working in relief work in Vancouver, Washington. She has mastered the art of ‘freelance veterinarian’ and provides relief to 6+ clinics in the Vancouver, WA area. Dr. Sheltren talks about stress, finances, how and what to prioritize when working in the industry and the challenges and rewards of leaving your comfort zone.

If you are considering a career in relief work, have an interest in ROSS Veterinary school and island living, or are just looking for some advice on how to transition from applicant to student to practitioner, this episode is for you.

In this episode:

  • The different caseload that comes with living on an island
  • Some of the challenges and perspective of transitioning from island living to American clinics
  • Sara’s tips for students currently transitioning between roles or communities 
  • What to look for when securing your first job
  • The importance and flexibility of relief veterinary work


“Those rejection letters were rolling in and I had people that I knew trying to tell me that it’s time to give up, which I understand because 3 years [applying to vet school] in a row is kinda hard to stomach. But [ROSS] was presented as an opportunity for me to go to vet school, a huge adventure to go to St. Kitts, so I should do it, why not, I can pursue my dream and have this adventure.” (9:25)

“I think ROSS students just learn so much resilience. It was a pretty normal occurrence to be sitting in lectures taking a test and the lights would go out, it was just normal. What a great learning experience as a veterinarian.” (22:16)

“I think as vets we want to be perfect, we want to devote our lives to our jobs, and that’s not always the right thing to do.” (38:38)

“At first it was just a lot of sending our resumes, a lot of interviews, most relief vets are just doing this on their own, there isn’t an agency we would go through like nurses have, I get asked that question all the time. So, it was just basically trying to find new jobs all the time, that was hard at first. But once I got my foot in the door it’s been great because I have a lot of clinics that ask me back, so it’s sort of like having a lot of little part-time jobs.” (58:28)


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