More than a career: A level 3 veterinary technician shares her incredible career path journey
BluePearl veterinary technician shares her unique journey into the veterinary sector and how it's inspired her mission of implementing animal science education into high schools and technical schools.
Laura Champagne, CVT, BS (Veterinary Technology), Surgery & Anesthesia Nurse at BluePearl in Waltham, Massachusetts, began her career at BluePearl Pet Hospital in 2016. However, like many others who pursue a career as a veterinary technician, veterinary medicine was a second career. Prior to a career in pet health, Champagne obtained a bachelor’s degree in English, and took steps to attain master’s degree in teaching. She worked for several years, but nothing seemed to fulfill her.
Although Champagne had little exposure to the veterinary field while growing up (other than family veterinary visits), she recognized her love for animals at a young age. She decided to follow her passion and return to school for a career in veterinary medicine in 2012. During school, she interned at various pet hospitals, including BluePearl. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Technology, she landed her first job at BluePearl as an Advanced Patient Care Associate. She immediately fell in love with the medicine and science aspect of the role, the challenge of pet health, and the diversity and variation of each day’s work, specifically surgery.
“When an adorable dog or sweet cat comes into the clinic and I get to love on them, there is nothing better,” said Champagne. “I have an innate love for animals and a passion for science, so a career in veterinary medicine felt just right. I love fixing pets, specifically through surgery to remove bleeding or cancerous masses, repairing fractured bones/cruciate tears, or opening airways.”
Although new to the field, Champagne says the BluePearl environment was very encouraging, and this helped her to advance within her role. After passing the Veterinary Technician National Exam, she quickly rose to a veterinary technician level 1, then level 2, then level 3. As a recognized leader within her hospital, Champagne was asked to run the technician internship program, which she did, from 2017 until 2020.
“My management recognized that I enjoyed teaching others and was really enthusiastic about learning, so I was able to take that and apply it to new interns who were in a similar boat that I was when I first started working at BluePearl. The feedback I always received while running the internship program was that we throw them ‘into the deep end’ and allow them to get hands-on with trying skills and working with patients, instead of hugging the walls and watching from the sidelines like many of the other hospitals do,” explained Champagne.
“I think a lot of the techs and doctors are super encouraging and have patience to allow someone new to try practicing skills enough times to get really good and improve," she continued.
Shortly after Champagne got her footing at BluePearl, she began to look for ways to expose local high school students to veterinary medicine and animal sciences. In 2018, she started to research and visit local technical schools that did not have any animal science programs. The greatest luck she had was with Minuteman High School.
“I feel it’s important for people to be introduced to this career at a younger age, and it is lacking representation in primary education when I approached Minuteman, they were already thinking about starting a similar program, so the partnership was a perfect match," said Champagne.
"It took 3 years of work with an amazing committee of people that wanted to see this program succeed to launch the program. Half of being a great nurse in veterinary medicine is the hands-on experience, and with a program like this, students can start gaining these kinds of experiences prior to stepping into a hospital,” she continued.
Minuteman High School added Animal Science to its list of career technical education majors for the 2021-22 school year. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education approved Minuteman’s Animal Science program for Chapter 74 career/vocational-technical education status in June, with the help of BluePearl committee members.
Outside of work, Champagne has been a program coordinator of the Veterinary Medicine program presented by the Boston Leadership Institute each summer since 2018. It is a three-week program that offers students across the U.S. (and internationally prior to the COVID-19 pandemic) immersive courses that cover multifaceted aspects of veterinary medicine, including how to detect pain through physical examinations and how to analyze imaging from x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans.
“I worked with a surgeon in our hospital who coordinated the program for the first 2 years, and this past year, I took over as coordinator,” said Champagne. “I also coordinated a new one-week middle school program the Boston Leadership Institute started, only with a little less depth. I found it really rewarding to be able to engage and work with students that were from across the country, educating them and perhaps inspiring them to carry some enthusiasm and interest back to a specific area of animal medicine.”
Champagne is currently applying to advance to veterinary technician level 4 through BluePearl’s career pathing platform, CareerTrax. CareerTrax is the industry’s largest electronic career pathing platform, which supports a first-of-its-kind leveling and compensation structure. Champagne is also applying for her VTS (Veterinary Technician Specialty) certification in Anesthesia & Analgesia, with hopes to attain this by 2022.
Beyond these goals, Champagne wants to continue to foster a relationship between BluePearl and other local clinics, hospitals, farms for the students to participate in co-op possibilities during their senior year. A specific long-term goal is to help develop an on-site clinic, staffed primarily by students, on the Minuteman High School campus which provides general practice care for community pet owners at lower costs.
“Minuteman program is mainly capable of working with small animals, but I hope it can grow into utilizing large animals and potentially exotic, marine, or wildlife animals,” said Champagne. “As for me, personally, I really enjoy being a source of support for new coworkers who are learning the ropes of our hospital and may need help with odds and ends; things that aren’t necessarily ‘tech’ questions."
Champagne summed it up by demonstrating her core values and passion for for the profession. "I believe supporting one another helps us do our best on a daily basis and this uplifts the level of medicine we practice. I am simply passing along the insights and encouragement that was given to me when I first started in the field, because I know I am only as skilled as I am today because of those who taught me.”
More about Champagne
Laura Champagne, CVT, BS (Veterinary Technology), BA, is a level III Surgery & Anesthesia Veterinary Technician at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Waltham, MA. She is also the interim secretary for NAVAS (North American Veterinary Anesthesia Society) and sits on the New Programs Development Board for Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School. She also is an instructor for the Boston Leadership Institute–Veterinary Medicine Track, and member of MVTA, NAVTA.