Meet Dr. Cosentino, a Canadian veterinarian in Clearview, Ontario who treats small animals and is well known in our Vetster community for her work with exotics. Dr. Cosentino joined our platform in 2021 and is here to share her experience with us.
“Hesitation is usually around not being able to perform a physical exam, but remember that your knowledge and skills at history taking are still very valuable resources for clients!”
I remember seeing online ads for Vetster recruiting veterinarians, and wanted to give it a try. I was looking for new things to do in veterinary medicine as well as extra income (this was at the beginning of 2021 in the height of the pandemic). I was enticed by the flexibility of the platform - I could set my own hours and schedule, could decide my own fee, and could customize my profile to attract the kind of clients I wanted to see. It felt like another way to help people (which I love doing), and was especially important during a time when in person visits were becoming more limited.
What has kept me with the Vetster platform is the continued support for us as professionals (we are expected to practice as we see fit, including how we approach clients, the services we offer, and aren't expected to bend to every client demand or make ourselves constantly available) and the ability to grow as a business (my reputation on Vetster has grown and I now regularly have appointment bookings).
In my personal life Vetster has given me some "bonus" money that I feel more free to spend on fun things, while my full time job goes toward paying for all the adult responsibilities in my life. It feels like a good payout for the amount of work I put in, and it's nice to have a semi-steady second source of income. In terms of work life balance I will admit it is sometimes hard to work during the evening and on weekends, but I love the flexibility of being able to adjust my hours as needed. I can work on Vetster whenever it works for me, and that gives me a little extra income (which has been much needed through the pandemic!). It's also nice to have a way to offer my services to casual friends/acquaintances in a way that respects my time and allows me to earn income, rather than offering "free advice" whenever someone has a question about their pet.
I talk about nutrition in most of my consults. I will often give owners links to specific prescription diets I think may benefit their pet (that they can then ask their regular vet about), or sometimes high quality retail diets they can purchase at the pet store.
I think the Vetster platform can be helpful for nutrition in many ways. Nutrition consults can be time consuming, and we can’t always dedicate enough time and energy in the clinic. Telemedicine visits can be more relaxed and focused on specific topics. I think it’s also useful to have telemedicine vets reinforce the nutrition messages that clients get in clinic, which helps the client see that we make these recommendations not for profit but because we truly feel their pet would benefit. I also love the ability to send owners links to diets and handouts/brochures directly in the platform - it’s a great tool for client education.
My favourite part is client reviews! It's been rewarding to get 5 star ratings, and makes me feel like I've done a great job helping the pet and owner, and that my efforts are appreciated. We don't get much positive feedback in the "real world" unfortunately, and it can be easy to dwell on negative experiences and online bullying. I love being able to see the positive impact this platform has on people, and it's a great reminder that the work we do is important.
I also really like being able to help owners that otherwise would have no access to care. This may be because they are in a remote location, or in a location with a significant shortage of veterinarians, or it may be that they don't have access to a vet willing to see and treat their unique species. Vetster lets me help more people and types of pets than I could in a brick and mortar clinic.
The platform itself is also very easy to use and professional looking. Appointments are easy to run and write records for, and prescriptions are also very simple. The new app for veterinarians has been great as a way to access the platform better on a mobile device.
Recently I had a case with a sick turtle, which was actually a wild turtle the family had "adopted". I educated them on why wild turtles should not be kept in captivity (also against the law in Ontario), and they agreed to surrender the turtle to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre. It was sad for the family but they were happy to do the right thing, and is a great example of how telemedicine can help educate owners beyond just care for their pets.
Other memorable cases have included a rabbit with pododermatitis that I saw a couple times and actually became good friends with the owner, a horned frog (first time treating an amphibian for me!) that wasn't eating well and had an eye infection, an elderly poodle with heart disease that had extensive workup done but owners were new to the country and in need of referral for ongoing care, a sick fish (another species first!), a dog in a remote location of Nunavut where access to veterinary care is extremely limited, a veiled chameleon with an infected wound, a turkey with a dog bite injury that I was able to help over a holiday weekend, and a duck with a foot injury.
I've seen cases ranging from young healthy animals where owners needed just general advice or education, to pets that were urgently sick and required referral, to older pets with quality of life issues that needed to be discussed. I've also treated a wide variety of species at this point - to date I've seen:
I would say give it a try, as you might like it more than you expect. You can start small by only making yourself available at limited times and for limited species (I see a lot of exotics but the average vet does not have to!), and learn what you are comfortable diagnosing and treating.
It's OK to have different boundaries/comfort levels with what you can do virtually, the clients will still appreciate and benefit from having professional advice. I think that once you try virtual care, you will realize how easy it is and how often "simple" things can be managed or triaged with virtual care which helps relieve the burden on brick and mortar clinics. Hesitation is usually around not being able to perform a physical exam, but remember that your knowledge and skills at history taking are still very valuable resources for clients! I'm always happy to chat with colleagues that are curious about getting into telemedicine.
I have really enjoyed working with the Vetster platform. I feel valued and respected as a professional, both by the platform itself and by the clients. It's a supportive environment, and thus far I've only had positive interactions with both Vetster team members and clients. I've also really enjoyed the chance to expand my skills in exotic animal medicine, and see species I would not normally get to see in person. It's fun learning about different types of animals, and seeing the diversity of the human animal bond. I feel like an ambassador both for the profession at large, and for the growing field of telemedicine. It's been great to share my experience with colleagues and help them learn about the unique benefits of telemedicine.
If you're interested in being featured in our blog, please contact Jennifer, our Manager of Veterinary Success by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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