Laura Champagne, CVT, is a Surgery & Anesthesia Veterinary Technician who got her start at BluePearl Pet Hospital in Waltham, Massachusetts 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, Laura obtained a bachelor’s degree in English and took steps to attain her master’s degree in teaching. She worked for several years, but nothing seemed to fulfill her.
Although Laura 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 medical and scientific aspects 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 Laura.
“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.”Laura ChampagneCVT
Leveling Up as a Vet Tech
Although new to the field, Laura 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 I, then level II, then level III. As a recognized leader within her hospital, Laura 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 Laura.
“I think a lot of the techs and doctors are super encouraging and have the patience to allow someone new to try practicing skills enough times to get really good and improve,” she continued.
Giving Back to the Community
After Laura joined 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. It was during this time that she learned about 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 Laura.
“It took three 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 veterinary technician 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 with the help of BluePearl committee members.
Outside of work, Laura 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 two years, and this past year, I took over as coordinator,” said Laura.
“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,” she added.
Growing with BluePearl
Laura’s next goal is to advance to veterinary technician level IV 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. Laura is also applying for her VTS (Veterinary Technician Specialist) certification in Anesthesia & Analgesia.
Beyond these goals, Laura wants to continue to foster a relationship between BluePearl and other local clinics, hospitals and 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.
“The Minuteman program is mainly for working with small animals, but I hope it can grow into serving large animals and potentially exotic, marine or wildlife animals,” said Laura.
“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,” she continued.
Laura summed it up by demonstrating her core values and passion 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 Laura 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 a member of MVTA, NAVTA.
Note: This article ran in DVM360 in October 2021.